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The  Ladakhi 

A  Study  in  Ethnography  and  Change 

R.  S.  Mann 

About  the  book 

This  study  explores  and 
explains  various  aspects 
of  life  and  culture  of  the 
Ladakhis.  While  explain¬ 
ing  and  interpreting 
diverse  parameters  of 
Ladakhi  cultural  matrix, 
the  focus  remains  on  con¬ 
tinuity  and  change  per¬ 
spective.  Ethnographic 
features  do  speak  of  ele¬ 
ments  of  persistence, as 
also  of  nature  and  extent 
of  change.  The  patterns 
of  Ladakhi  society  and 
culture,  therefore,  are 
analysed  not  only  in  static 
forms  but  also  within  the 
fold  of  dynamics. 
Within  the  traditions  of 
holistic  approach,  the  ele¬ 
ments  of  Ladakhi  social 
organisation  have  speci¬ 
ally  been  analysed  in  the 
context  of  ecology  and 
religion,  the  two  impo¬ 
sing  and  dominant  do¬ 
mains  characterizing  the 
remote  habitations  of  the 
Ladakhis.  Monastic  or¬ 
ganisation  and  typical 
kind  of  ecology  have  had 
a  great  say  in  shaping 
the  Ladakhi  society  and 

In  Ladakhi  society, 
more  of  the  dimensions 
of  cultural  change  chiefly 
seek  their  origin  to  exoge¬ 
nous  factors.  The  latter 
are  actively  involved  in 
changing  the  physical  con¬ 
ditions  and  the  destiny 
of  humans  in  Ladakh. 

Digitized  by  the  Internet  Archive 
in  2018  with  funding  from 
Public.  Resource. Org 

The  Ladakhi 

A  Study  in  Ethnography  and  Change 

«*\  ■ 



A  Study  in  Ethnography  and  Change 

R.  S.  MANN 

Assisted  by  T.  K.  GHOSH 


CALCUTTA -700  01 6 

Memoir  No.  69 

Published  by 
The  Director 

Anthropological  Survey  of  India 
27  Jawaharlal  Nehru  Road 
Calcutta-700  016 

Published  in  February  1986 

Printed  by 
M.  Talukdar 

Loyal  Art  Press  Private  Limited 
164  Lenin  Sarani 
Calcutta-700  013 

Price  :  Rs. 

t,  ,  :  [ 

Without  the  expressed  permission  from  the  Director,  Anthropological  Survey  of  India 
no  portion  of  this  publication  can  be  reproduced  partly  or  wholly. 


Culture  change  and  its  dynamics  have,  of  late,  formed  an  important 
arena  in  the  social  anthropological  and  sociological  frameworks.  At 
theoretical  level  the  rise  of  acculturation  phenomenon,  and  at  the  level 
of  social-cultura.1  reality  the  massive  planning  for  transformation  of  socie¬ 
ties,  attracted  the  attention  of  social-cultural  researchers  and  analysts. 
Their  intervention,  as  social  analysts,  was  specially  desired  and  demanded 
by  the  societies  of  Third  World  countries  who  suddenly  fell  in  the  imposing 
sway  of  change.  The  strategy  of  change  of  these  developing  nations 
further  asked  for  analytical  observations  and  interpretations  of  social 
researchers,  which  could  be  taken  advantage  of  in  regulating  transition 
and  ultimately  a  smooth  transformation.  India,  being  the  major  developing 
nation  of  South  Asia,  provided  a  large  scope  for  studies  on  descrip¬ 
tion  of  culture  and  its  changing  perspective.  Her  plural  society,  and 
large  scale  social-cultural  heterogeneity  needed  more  comprehensive  and 
intensive  social  research,  specially  in  the  context  of  change.  Purposed 
search  for  important  relevant  parameters  was,  thus,  desired  for  human 
populations,  including  those  occupying  interior,  outlying  and  isolated 
localities.  As  part  of  this  trend  it  was  thought  to  cover  upper  Himalayas. 
For  various  reasons  the  life  and  culture  of  the  people,  belonging  to  this 
formation,  continued  to  remain  unexplored.  These  little  known  com¬ 
munities  were  considered  all  the  more  important  in  terms  of  their  cultural 
heritage  and  change.  The  present  work  on  Ladakhi  life  and  culture,  and 
the  changes  thereof,  is  an  outcome  of  the  background  outlined  above. 

It  may  be  mentioned  that  no  reasonably  good  account  of  Ladakhi 
life  and  culture  is  available  in  the  existing  literature.  To  my  knowledge, 
no  anthropologist  or  sociologist  has,  so  far,  made  any  deep  study  on 
Ladakhi  life-designs.  Except  a  few  articles,  here  and  there,  no  book, 
exclusively  devoting  to  scientific  explanation  of  Ladakhi  way  of  life,  could 
be  published.  People  continue  to  quote  century  old  works  of  some  British 
administrators  and  army  officers.  My  description  of  Ladakhi  society  is 
a  modest  attempt  within  the  tradition  of  scientific  procedure.  I  do  not 
claim  it  a  very  exhaustive,  ethnographic  and  change  account.  But  certainly 
the  book  provides  deep  insight  into  the  social  structure  and  organisation 
of  Ladakhis.  The  focus  has  been  on  fixity  and  persistence  of  social  system 
on  the  one  hand,  and  change  on  the  other.  Continuity  and  change  are 
highlighted  in  individual  chapters,  as  also  in  the  finale  given  towards  the 
close  of  book.  The  readers,  I  presume,  would  be  able  to  well  locate  the 
nature,  degree  and  trends  of  change.  In  addition  to  exogenous  factors 
of  change,  the  format  of  endogenous  stimulants  and  barriers  to  change 
are  well  delineated  at  relevant  places. 

A  large  number  of  cultural  elements  and  events  of  Ladakhis  have  an 
intimate  bearing  to  eco-system.  Their  explanations  are  best  sought  in 
ecological  parameters.  People  seem  to  have  made  an  excellent  adjustment 


the  Ladakhi 

and  adaptation  to  imposing  external  conditions.  This  is  reflected  in  their 
nature  of  behaviour  and  interaction  among  themselves,  as  also  in  their 
equation  with  nature.  People  feel  that  their  adaptation  alone  made  them 
survive  whenever  nature  posed  threat  to  their  existance.  Details  of  rites, 
rituals  ceremonies,  institutions  and  social  groupings  provide  support  to 
their  arguments. 

Religion  continues  to  form  their  richest  resource  for  seeking  satis¬ 
faction  and  inspiration.  It’s  elaborate  form  intervenes  at  all  levels  and  in 
all  walks  of  life.  The  faith  of  Ladakhis  in  religious  attributes  remains 
unaltered.  The  villagers  find  no  alternative  to  religious  explanations  which 
are  stated  to  have  helped  them  althrough.  Occasionally  the  monastic 
organisations  (the  repository  of  religion)  seem  to  come  hard  on  the  villagers, 
but  the  same  is  taken  as  normal  part  of  living.  Religious  hierarchy  and  its 
manifestations  are  all  pervading,  interacting  so  deeply  in  social  economic 
life,  as  also  in  the  arena  of  social  control.  To  one  who  has  thoroughly 
explored  and  understood  Ladakhi  life  and  culture,  it  sounds  convincing 
that  society  (its  culture),  religion  and  external  ecology  provide  mutually 
intervening  network  forming  patterns  of  society  and  culture  in  this  remote 
locality  of  Indian  sub-continent.  And  this  is  how  people  boast  of  their 
survival  in  these  lifeless  heights. 

Buddhism,  the  religion  of  Ladakhis,  prescribes  for  egalitarian  order. 
And  ideally  the  religious  men  provide  support  to  the  same.  But  pragmati¬ 
cally  there  is  lot  of  contradiction  in  it.  Egalitarianism  is  more  c  f  a  slogan 
than  reality.  Gara,  Mon  and  some  Reda,  who  also  Buddhists,  are 
differentiated  from  La.dakhis.  They  denied  of  certain  rights  and  pri¬ 
vileges  and  socially  low.  Stratification,  inequality  a.nd  ranking 
characterize  La.da.khi  village  community.  Certain  elements  of  stratification 
bear  resemblance  to  those  of  the  Hindu  caste  system.  There  other 
characters  which  remain  short  of  its  requirements.  Implications  and 
manifestations  of  social  stratification  well  reflected  in  many  aspects  of 
village  community  and  its  functioning.  Even  the  monastic  organisation, 
in  its  practical  perspective,  does  cultivate  some  deprivation  and  alienation 
in  respect  of  people  belonging  to  certain  ethnic  groups,  even  when  they  are 
Buddhists.  On  the  other  ha.nd.  the  rest  get  concession  and  privileged. 

A  sharp  rise  of  new  economic  opportunities  has  considerably  helped 
meet  Ladakhi’s  growing  aspirations  a.nd  expectations.  Fast  growth  of 
employment  potential,  adoption  of  some  agriculture  innovations  and  ex¬ 
pansion  of  i  nternal  trade  have  opened  up  new  avenues  of  earning.  Involve¬ 
ment  in  such  ventures  did  reflect  on  the  ongoing  pattern  of  division  of 
labour.  It  has  its  repercussions  even  in  the  social  and  religious  life. 

The  abrupt  growth  of  a  strong  network  of  communication  helped 
widen  mechanism  of  socio-political  control.  It  applied  to  structure  as  well 
as  function  perspectives.  The  growth  of  linkages  with  wider  political 
agencies  and  parties  added  new  dimensions  to  Ladakhi  politics  and  social 
control.  Religion  and  politics  came  closer.  The  formal  system  of  electio¬ 
neering  pawed  wa.y  to  divisive  tendency.  Alien  influence  on  local  ways 



led.  to  readjustment  in  certain  social  groupings.  But  the  new  avenues  have 
not  undermined  the  role  of  religion  in  resolving  conflict  and  in  bringing 
about  consensus.  To  take  care  of  new  political  ends  the  religion  is  rather 
being  strengthened.  Dependence  on  traditional  bodies  of  social  control 
is  still  the  supreme,  and  so  the  devotion  of  people  to  the  same. 

For  paucity  of  existing  relevant  material,  the  explanations  and  des¬ 
criptions  remain  largely  field-based..  This  document  is  an  outcome  of 
over  six  months  of  field-work  in  Ladakh  in  1970-71.  Since  the  study 
focused  on  continuity  and  change,  four  villages  (Spituk,  Sabu,  Thiksay  and 
Kuyul)  were  intensively  researched.  From  Leh,  the  headquarters  of  Ladakh 
district  and  the  only  urban  centres,  these  villages  are  located  at  different 
distances — from  nine  to  two  hundred  fifty  kilometers.  These  settlements 
are  at  various  altitudes,  ranging  from  9,500  to  14,000  feet  above  sea 
level.  Three  hundred  families  provided  major  platform  for  statistical  and 
other  treatment.  Descriptive  data,  however,  were  also  collected  from  other 
informants  belonging  to  these  and  other  neighbouring  villages,  as  also  from 
other  population  groups.  With  a  total  population  of  1806,  these  three 
hundred  families  have  885  males  and  921  females.  With  average  family 
size  of  6.02,  the  male-female  proportion  is  100:104.  The  higher  proportion 
of  femafles  does  not  outwardly  go  in  tune  with  polyandrous  system  which 
these  La.dakhis  have.  Another  interesting  feature  pertains  to  literacy  rate 
and  the  position  of  woman.  Total  educated  and  literates  form  18.27% 
(male  14.01  %  and  female  4.26%).  In  view  of  large  amount  of  freedom 
enjoyed  by  the  Ladakhi  women,  their  literacy  is  far  short  of  the  men.  The 
point  of  literacy  was  specially  stressed  upon  because  it  is  presumed  to  have 
a  bearing  on  social-cultural  change. 

The  author  takes  full  responsibility  of  any  shortcoming  in  the  mono¬ 
graph.  At  some  places  the  explanations  may  not  meet  all  the  expectations 
of  the  readers  because  the  author  worked  under  terrible  constraints  of 
hostile  climatic  conditions,  remoteness  and  linguistic  communication. 
The  author  is  grateful  to  Shri  T.  K.  Ghosh  who  assisted  in  the  filling  of 
some  family  schedules. 





1.  Ecological  and  Historical  Perspective 

2.  Ethnic  Composition  and  SociaJ  Stratification 

3.  Family,  Lineage  and  Phasphun 

4.  Institution  of  Marriage 

5.  Status  of  Woman 

6.  Birth  Rites  and  Ceremonies 

7.  Death  Rituals  and  Ceremonies 

8.  Economic  Structure 

9.  Mechanism  of  Socio-political  Control 

10.  Religious  Attributes 

1 1 .  Culture  Change — A  Review 



















Ecological  and  Historical  Perspective 

Ladakh  has  been  referred  by  many  names,  usually  differing  in  terms 
of  language  and  association  of  the  place  with  the  ecology  around.  A 
common  Tibetan  name  of  Ladakh  is  La-tags,  though  it  is  also  termed  as 
Maryul  or  low-land  or  red-land  and  Kha-chan-pa  or  snow-land.  This 
region  has  also  been  mentioned  as  Kia-chha  and  Ma-lo-pho  by  Fa-Hien 
and  Hiuen  Tsang  respectively.  Some  have  referred  it  as  the  land  of 
monks  and  monasteries.  It  has  also  been  described  as  an  area  where 
people  grow  Lamas  (monks),  yaks,  monasteries  and  devil  dancers.  Accor¬ 
ding  to  Ganpat  (1916)  some  Muslims  termed  Ladakh  as  Kufristan  which 
means  “the  land  of  the  Pagan”,  people  of  evil  customs  also  because  they 
drink  wine  and  one  woman  marries  many  men. 

Ladakh  is  the  most  north-western  part  of  India  and  forms  a 
district  of  Jammu  and  Kashmir  State.  The  Lahaul  and  Spiti  districts 
are  touching  its  southern  boundaries.  Ladakh  district  is  divided  into 
three  Tehsils  namely  Leh,  Kargil  and  Zanskar  (Padam).  Lately,  however, 
Kargil  has  been  carved  out  as  a  separate  district.  The  chief  valleys  are 
Leh,  Chushul,  Rupshu  and  Changchenme.  Extending  from  south-east 
to  north-west,  through  the  greater  part  of  Ladakh,  is  the  principal  valley 
following  the  course  of  the  Indus.  The  valleys  are  not  very  wide.  The 
cultivated  fields  spread  out  in  the  depths  of  the  valleys.  There  are  some 
streams  of  lesser  extent  and  size  flowing  to  Indus.  The  Indus  taking  off 
at  Mansarover,  and  entering  Ladakh  near  Demchock,  flows  diagonally 
towards  the  north-west.  Principal  tributaries  of  Indus  are  Zanskar,  Dras, 
Shyok  and  Shigar.  Shyok  and  its  tributary  Nubra  are  fed  by  the  glaciers 
in  the  Karakoram  range.  Dras  is  a  mighty  and  imposing  river.  The 
greyish-blue  water  of  Indus  rolls  while  rushing  and  roaring. 

The  chief  ranges  in  Ladakh  are  Zanskar,  Karakoram  and  Ladakh. 
These,  running  from  north-west  or  west  to  south-east  or  east,  divide  the 
area  laterally  into  various  regions.  Ladakh  range  is  north  of  Leh,  the 
the  headquarter  of  the  district.  The  important  passes  in  this  range  are 
Chang-La  and  Khardung-La.  The  beautiful  valleys  of  Nubra  and  Shyok 
are  towards  the  north  of  the  range.  Towards  the  north  and  west  of  Shyok 
river  is  the  Karakoram  range.  Indo-Sinkiang  trade  route  has  been 
through  the  famous  depression  of  Karakoram  pass.  Godwin  Austen 
peak  (28,265  ft.)  is  the  culmination  of  the  flanking  masses  of  Karakoram. 
It  is  said  that  Karakoram  is  one  range  in  the  world  having  the  largest 



number  of  giant  peaks.  To  the  south  of  Ladakh  range  lies  the  Zanskar 
range  separated  by  the  river  Indus.  Ladakh,  the  India’s  largest  district 
and  the  northern-most  part  of  the  Himalayas  has  the  natural  boundaries 
of  Karakoram  and  Zanskar.  The  east  of  Ladakh  is  bounded  by  com¬ 
paratively  low  hills,  most  unlike  a  typical  mountainous  region.  But  the 
character  and  nature  of  terrain  change  towards  west  where  the  valleys 
deepen  and  mountain  elevation  remains  higher.  They  form,  like 
the  Himalayas,  massive  ridges  where  spurs  fall  steeply  into  the  deep 

Except  a  few  fertile  tracts  along  the  river  banks,  the  rest  of  the  area 
has  a  barren  and  desolated  look.  In  most  of  the  places  and  for  miles 
together  nothing  appears  to  break  the  barrenness  of  the  landscape  under 
the  towering  hills.  In  the  thickness  of  naked  and  bleak  mountains,  one 
comes  across  a  few  snow-capped  peaks.  Ladakh  forms  one  of  the 
most  elevated  areas  of  the  world  and  there  are  reported  human  habitations 
ranging  from  9,000  to  about  15,000  feet  above  sea  level.  In  the  remote 
district  of  Ladakh,  there  are  stony  hill  roads  or  bridle  paths.  Leh- 
Srinagar  and  some  other  metalled  roads  have  lately  been  constructed. 
The  big  boulders,  terribly  steep  ascents  and  dangerous  descents  make 
journey  difficult.  The  snow  on  the  lofty  peaks  and  snow  avalanches 
on  the  high  passes  also  pose  difficulty.  The  journey  is  very  monotonous 
with  gazing  at  rocks  loosened  stones  and  barren  hills.  The  difficult 
conditions  including  frowning  weather  and  freezing  cold  have  fatal  con¬ 
sequences.  One  can  occasionally  see  patches  of  snow  and  glaciated 
slopes.  In  Buddhist  Ladakh  the  rocky  points  and  projections  are  owned 
by  the  monasteries  which  dominate  the  valleys  and  villages  below  them. 
There  are  picturesque  Chhorten  monuments  and  Manes  and  these,  with 
the  monasteries,  provide  silent  and  abandoned  looks.  There  are  bare 
mountains  and  rocky  soil.  The  plain  areas  are  generally  sandy. 

Major  Singh’s  description  of  Ladakh,  in  a  nutshell  is  worth  men¬ 
tioning.  “Ladakh — a  land  of  harsh  contradictions  where  the  sub¬ 
arctic  temperatures  of  the  night  give  way  to  the  blistering  heat  of  the 
midnoon  sun,  the  alternating,  tangled  maze  of  mountains  and  the  sudden 
waterless  wastes  of  sand,  dead  with  an  eerie  aura  of  lifelessness  that 
perhaps  exists  nowhere  else,  deep  gorges  of  puple  and  magenta  rock 
several  thousand  feet  deep  so  that  they  hide  the  very  horizon  and  hold 
nothing  but  the  rushing  waters  of  the  Indus,  narrow-ribbons  of  pony- 
tracks,  rough  bridges  of  poplar  trunks  which  induce  vertige  instantly 
and  then,  charismatically,  an  oasis,  the  mere  size  of  a  giant’s  palm,  bubb¬ 
ling  with  industry,  the  clucking  of  hens,  the  nawing  of  Zhoos,  stoned 
Kraal  of  bleating  sheep  and  goats.  But  above  all  the  smiling  human 
faces  (1969:13)”.  Bhanja  (1948)  while  stressing  on  the  physical  features  of 
Ladakh  has  stated  that  blades  of  grass  are  few  and  far  between.  The  vast 
empty  spaces,  the  brown  barren  hills,  the  tracts  of  loose  and  crumbling 
sand,  the  cloudless  skies,  the  penetrating  light,  the  wide  extremes  of 
temperature,  the  scanty  rainfall,  the  dry  air,  the  fierce  winds,  the  low 



thorny  monotonous  vegetation  ;  these  are  some  of  the  most  impressive 
features  in  this  cold  and  elevated  tract. 

The  forbidding  climate,  remoteness  and  inaccessibility  kept  Ladakh 
isolated,  except  for  traders,  for  centuries.  Lately,  however,  there  is  a 
vast  communication  with  Ladakh,  even  when  it  has  been  declared  as  a 
prohibited  area.  Except  when  Jojila  is  blocked  with  snow,  the  rest  of  the 
year  is  marked  with  regular  traffic  to  and  from  Ladakh.  In  normal 
weather,  the  regular  air  services  are  maintained  between  Chandigarh 
and  Leh,  Pathankot  and  Leh,  Srinagar  and  Leh.  The  area  has  been 
widely  thrown  open  and  connected  to  outside  places,  specially  after  1960. 
Since  Ladakh  becam?  a  district  of  Jammu  and  Kashmir  State  after  1947, 
lot  of  efforts  have  been  made  to  develop  the  area.  But  still  certain 
difficulties  are  posed  because  of  the  district’s  vast  area — occupying  about 
70.4%  of  the  total  area  of  the  Jammu  and  Kashmir  State,  towards  the 
east  of  Kashmir  valley.  According  to  1961  Census,  the  area  in  Indias 
possession  is  47,200  square  miles.  The  district  is  very  thinly  populated. 
The  density  of  population  is  two  persons  per  square  mile— 0.5  per  square 
mile  in  Leh  and  3.0  per  square  mile  in  Kargil. 

In  Ladakh  there  has,  since  many  centuries,  been  marked  instance 
of  linguistic,  ethnic  and  religious  integration  and  tolerance.  There  has 
been  simultaneous  existence  of  Baltis,  Ladkhis  (Bhoto),  Tibetans,  Dards, 
Kashmiris,  Argons  and  some  others  from  the  different  states  of  plain 
India.  Likewise,  the  languages  reported  in  Ladakh  include  Ladakhi, 
Tibetan,  Haiti,  Dardi,  Gilgiti,  Brokpa,  Kashmiri,  Hindi  and  lately  intro¬ 
duced  English.  Likewise,  various  religions  have  simultaneously  been 
existing  in  Ladakh  for  centuries.  Some  blending  of  religious  traits  is  also 
marked.  There  are  now  people  belonging  to  Hindu,  Muslim,  Buddhist, 
Christian  and  Sikh  faiths.  Certain  traits  representing  linguistic,  cultural 
and  religious  fusion  among  various  ethnic  groups  are  also  observed. 

Ladakh  has  been  on  the  Central  Asian  trade  route  (nearly  four 
hundred  miles  long)  and,  thus,  remained  open  to  traders  for  centuries. 
It  was  the  route  used  when  the  fourth  Buddhist  council  was  held  in 
Kashmir  in  the  time  of  Kanishka  (125-152  A.D.).  Hiuen  Tsang  also 
made  use  of  this  route.  Central  Asian  Trade  route  has  been  over  Jojila 
to  Leh  and  then  on  to  Central  Asian  countries,  either  via  Baltistan  or 
Yarkand.  Leh  onwards,  there  has  also  been  a  route  to  Tibet.  Jojila, 
the  lowest  of  all  the  Himalayan  passes,  has  been  mostly  used  for  crossing 
over  to  Ladakh.  Only  the  famous  army  commander,  Zorawar  Singh, 
adopted  a  different  route.  He  brought  his  troops  through  Kishtwar  and 
via  the  17,370  ft.  high  Umasila  connecting  Kishtwar  with  Zanskar  sub¬ 
division  of  Ladakh.  This  happened  for  political  reasons.  Actually 
Kashmir  was,  at  that  time,  an  independent  State  and  Zorawar  Singh,  from 
Jammu,  could  not  make  use  of  it  to  go  via  Jojila.  There  is  now  a  big 
network  of  roads  to  connect  places  within  the  district. 

The  vast  arid  tracts  make  the  climate  hot  in  summer.  The  icy  winds 
in  winter  make  it  very  cold.  The  winter  is  long  and  severe.  It  statrs  to- 



wards  the  later  half  of  October  and  continues  till  the  end  of  April.  The 
climate  is  extremely  dry  and  rigorous.  The  nights  are  cold  and  the  days 
are  warm.  The  dryness  of  climate  increases  with  height.  Extreme  winter 
converts  the  moisture  into  snow.  At  the  same  time  there  is  speedy  eva¬ 
poration  by  the  scorching  sun  of  summer.  The  air  being  rarefied  does 
not  offer  a  strong  check  to  the  direct  transmission  of  solar  rays.  The 
more  the  height,  the  more  poweful  are  these  rays.  By  the  beginning  of 
the  afternoon,  the  lower  strata  of  the  atmosphere  gets  heated  up  causing 
the  start  of  fast  winds  which  become  fainter  towards  the  late  evening  and 
stop  by  10.00  p.m.  or  so.  The  rarefied  air  is  not  capable  of  holding  much 
moisture  in  suspension.  And  the  little  it  does,  is  evaporated  by  great 
radiation  of  heat.  It  causes  dryness  of  climate  and  loss  of  rain  and 
snowfall.  Another  hindrance  to  the  rainfall  is  the  opposite  direction  of 
winds  to  the  position  of  mountains.  The  scanty  showers  fall  mostly  in 
early  spring  and  late  autumn. 

The  hill  ranges  are  held  responsible  for  different  climatic  regions. 
The  region  between  Ladakh  and  the  Himalayan  range  remains  bone-dry 
because  winds,  carrying  moisture,  are  stopped  by  the  Himalayan  range. 
Jojila  is  the  chief  barrier  to  such  winds.  In  Shyok  and  Nubra  region, 
the  entrance  of  moisture  bearing  winds  is  out  of  questions.  The  snow 
on  certain  peaks  is  because  of  the  precipitation  of  clouds  formed  locally 
from  the  rivers  and  streams.  In  comparison  to  others  Nubra  valley  gets 
more  snow.  During  early  winter  months  the  moisture  sometimes  turns 
into  heavy  mist.  There  is  heavier  snowfall  around  Pangong  lake  because 
of  more  humidity  caused  by  lake  water. 

Breathing  difficulties  are  experinced  at  higher  altitudes.  The  dry¬ 
ness  of  atmosphere  causes  dehydration  making  body  parts,  specially 
the  exposed  ones,  leather-like.  In  high  altitudes  the  ultra-violet  rays 
are  fiercely  active  and  complexion  gets  darkened  with  short  exposure 
to  sun-rays.  But  with  prolonged  exposure  cracks  appear  on  the  facial 
skin.  The  dehydration  also  leads  to  stomach  trouble.  Dryness  causes 
hazard  to  life,  especially  making  animal  and  plant  life  difficult  and  scarce. 
The  frost  in  winter,  the  dryness,  the  high  velocity  winds  and  melting  snows 
have  caused  severe  soil  erosion  and  the  crumbled  hill  sides  have  assumed 
weird  shapes. 

The  wild  life  in  Ladakh  is  rapidly  vanishing  because  of  the  indiscri¬ 
minate  killing  by  the  non-Ladakhis  to  get  a  fresh  supply  of  meat.  There 
are,  however,  still  found  though  in  less  number,  red  bear,  wild  goat,  snow 
leopard,  wild  horse,  Tibetan  antelope,  gazelle,  marmot,  ibex,  and  hares. 
Chakor  or  snow-pheasant  and  black  eagles  are  also  available.  On  the 
banks  of  the  Indus  one  comes  across  ducks,  teals  and  swamps  of  Chachot. 
Fish  abound  in  streams.  The  domesticated  animals  include  goat,  sheep, 
cow,  yak  or  long  haired  bull,  pony,  dog,  ass,  Zo  or  Dso,  Dso-mo,  fowls, 
and  Drepo  which  is  the  male  produce  between  common  bull  and  the 

Because  of  a  very  low  rainfall  (annual  rainfall  does  not  exceed  three 



inches)  the  vegetation  is  very  spares  and  scarce.  The  hills  are  quite 
destitute  of  all  vegetation.  The  nude  mountains  do  not  grow  a  blade  of 
grass.  The  total  forest  of  Ladakh  slightly  exceeds  0.002%  of  the  total 
area.  Two  varieties  of  poplar  (Sholpoand  Byar-pa),  willow,  pencil 
cidar  (shukpa)  and  some  kind  of  tamarisk  are  indigenous.  Willow 
abounds  in  all  water  sources.  The  fruit  trees  found  in  Ladakh  are  apple, 
apricot,  walnut  and  mulberry.  These  species  of  fruit  trees  grow  in  the 
lower  hotter  regions,  say  around  Nuria,  Saspul,  Khaltse  and  Timagaon. 
The  valleys  are  studded  with  green  plantation  and  the  willow  and  poplar 
trees  survive  on  the  bank  of  the  rivers  to  almost  a  height  of  14,000  ft.  Sun 
flowers,  dahlia  and  Ganda  flowers  have  lately  been  introduced  in  villages 
around  Leh.  Forget-me-nots,  daisies,  anemones  and  wild  canterbury 
also  grow.  Some  wild  bushes,  largely  used  for  fuel  and  fencing  of 
fields,  grow  on  the  banks  of  rivers,  streams  and  small  water  channels. 

In  certain  time  period  the  history  of  Ladakh  is  not  very  illuminating 
and  one  has  to  be  satisfied  with  patchy  accounts  available  here  and  there. 
For  my  purpose,  I  have  dealt  history  in  terms  of  territorial  claims,  ruling 
class  and  administrative  structure. 

Because  of  the  frequent  changes  in  the  territorial  boundaries  of 
Ladakh,  it  was  realized  long  back  to  define  it  once  for  all.  The  treaties 
of  1784  and  1842  confirmed  the  same  boundary  which  was  agreed  upon 
by  the  representatives  of  Jammu  and  Kashmir,  the  Emperor  of  China 
and  Dalai  Lama.  China,  however,  unilaterally  and  forcibly  has,  since 
1957,  tried  to  alter  the  old  boundary  limits  in  Ladakh.  In  fact,  a  few 
isolated  Chinese  posts  were  established  on  Indian  border  since  1957 
onward  challenging  thereby  the  traditional  status  quo  of  the  boundary. 
The  road  construction  in  Aksai  Chin,  an  undemarcated  portion  of  Ladakh, 
was  started  by  the  Chinese  in  1950.  There  was  a  clash  between  Indian 
border  patrols  and  the  Chinese  troops  in  1958.  In  October  1959,  the  Chinese 
attacked  on  an  Indian  patrol  in  Ladakh.  Nine  men  were  killed  and  the 
rest  were  taken  prisoners.  All  this  was  done  even  when  the  Chinese  were 
outwardly  annoucing  that  they  have  no  territorial  claims  against  India. 
According  to  the  Chinese,  the  Line  of  Actual  Control  which  existed  in 
November  1959  did  include  the  isolated  posts  established  by  them. 
According  to  Kaul  (1963)  the  Line  of  Actual  Control,  declared  by  China, 
has  a  difference  of  about  8,500  square  miles  from  the  real  Line  of  Actual 
Control.  In  February  1961,  a  joint  report  in  regard  to  boundary  disputes 
was  prepared  by  the  representatives  of  India  and  China.  The  report, 
however,  remained  incomplete  because  it  largely  included  the  areas  of 
disagreement.  And  at  the  same  time  the  Chinese  were  not  prepared 
to  discuss  anything  about  Baltistan,  the  region  under  the  occupation  of 
Pakistan.  Under  these  conditions  the  boundaries  could  not  be  finally 
confirmed  and  according  to  Indian  claim  China  continues  to  be  in  illegal 
occupation  of  12,000  square  miles  of  Indian  territory. 

In  1950,  by  a  Ladakh-Tibetan  Treaty,  Rudock  was  added  to  Tibet. 
In  1946  Lahaul  and  Spiti  were  annexed  to  Punjab  (now  Himachal 



Pradesh).  The  boundary  changes  were  also  marked  in  December  1948, 
after  the  Cease  Fire  agreement  between  India  and  Pakistan.  Accordingly, 
India  kept  possession  of  Ladakh  and  Pakistan  occupied  Baltistan  and 
Gilgit.  Soon  after  the  division  of  the  country  in  1947,  Pakistan  acquired 
some  north  and  north-west  parts  of  Jammu  and  Kashmir.  This  led  to  a 
clash  between  Indian  and  Pakistani  troops.  Government  of  India  lodged 
a  complaint  with  Security  Council  whose  intervention  led  to  the  decla¬ 
ration  of  Cease-Fire  under  which  the  two  countries  kept  possession  of  the 
areas  held  by  them.  Jammu  and  Kashmir  lost  33,000  square  miles  of 
territory  after  Cease  Fire  (Census  1961:4).  Gilgit  district  and  Gilgiit 
Leased  Area  went  to  Pakistan.  From  Ladakh  district  the  biggest  Tehsil 
of  Skardu,  with  one  hundred  and  ninetyhve  villages,  and  a  part  of  Kargil 
(nearly  thirtyone  villages)  went  to  the  other  side. 

Kaul  (1963)  has  given  that  the  Mons  were  the  first  settlers  in  Ladakh. 
They  migrated  from  north  India  and  were  later  on  joined  by  the  Dards  of 
Baltistan.  The  latter  introduced  the  game  of  Polo,  and  former  the 
popular  musical  instruments.  The  earliest  chiefs  who  governed  Ladakh 
belonged  to  the  Mon  and  the  Dard.  tribes.  The  habitations  of  Mons 
and  Dards  were  in  the  central  valley  of  Ladakh.  The  Kushan  and  Hun 
rulers  in  Kashmir  (from  3rd  to  6th  century  A.D.)  treated  Ladakh  within 
their  imperial  authority.  In  the  middle  of  the  seventh  century  Ladakh 
was  subjugated  by  Songtsen  Gampo  of  Central  Tibet.  Around  930  A.D., 
Palgigon,  the  eldest  son  of  Kyide  Byimagon  ruled  Ladakh.  At  that 
time  Ladakh  was  bounded  by  Ramba  on  the  east,  Yarkand  on  the  north 
and  Jojila  on  the  west.  It  has  been  stated  by  Moorecroft  (1837)  suppor¬ 
ted  by  Cunningham  (1970)  that  Ladakh  intially  formed  a  province  of 
Tibet.  For  all  spiritual  matters,  the  Head  Lama  of  Lhasa  governed 
Ladakh.  There  was  an  independent  prince  for  temporal  matters. 
Ganhar  (1956)  however,  has  not  look  upon  Tibet  as  its  spiritual  fountain 
head  for  at  least  the  first  six  centuries  of  the  Christian  era.  This  was 
because  Tibet  got  its  Buddhism  towards  the  middle  of  seventh  century 
A.D.  According  to  him  the  Indian  monks,  including  some  Kashmiris, 
and  may  be  a  few  Ladakhis,  spread  the  Buddhist  faith  in  Tibet.  Around 
400  A.D.  the  Chinese  pilgrim  Fa-Hien  took  notice  of  Ladakh  and  found 
Buddhism  flourishing  there. 

The  relationship  pattern  of  Ladakh  with  the  neighbouring  states  is 
well  represented  through  political,  religious  and  commercial  links.  Trade 
and  commercial  ties  were  with  Kashmir  and  Yarkand,  politicaJ  relations 
with  Balti  and  Rudock  and  spiritual  connections  with  Lhasa.  It  was 
mainly  towards  west  of  Ladakh  that  the  border  tension  perpetuated 
with  frequent  intervals.  When  Islam  had  spread  in  northern  India 
some  Muslims  penetrated  beyond  Jojila  around  the  middle  of  14th 
century.  In  order  to  establish  Kashmir’s  sovereignty  over  Ladakh, 
Zainul  Abidin  (1420-70)  invaded  Ladakh  .  The  continuous  invasions 
on  Ladakh  from  Kashmir  led  to  the  change  of  its  dynasty.  Bhagal 
Namgyal  founded  the  new  dynasty  when  he  deposed  and  imprisoned  the 


king  in  1470.  This  dynasty  continued  till  Zorawar’s  conquest  of  Ladakh 
in  1842.  The  Muslim  rulers  of  Kashmir  again  attacked  Ladakh  in  1553 
and  1562  but  failed  to  establish  themselves.  Chewang  Namgyal  (1533- 
75)  gave  them  a  good  fight.  The  same  king,  with  his  policy  of  consoli¬ 
dation  and  expansion  turned  Baltistan  and  Guge  into  Vassal  States.  But 
during  the  course  of  a  fratricidal  war  in  Ladakh,  after  the  death  of 
Chewang  Namgyal,  the  vassal  chiefs  revolted.  The  chief  of  Baltistan, 
Ali  Mir,  invaded  Ladakh  and  compelled  its  ruler  Jamgyang  Namgyal 
(1580-90)  to  marry  his  daughter.  Sengge  Namgyal,  the  issue  born  out 
of  this  union  again  made  Baltistan  and  Western  Tibet  to  acknowledge 
his  authority.  Ali  Mir  took  possession  of  wohle  of  Ladakh  and  destroyed 
Monastic  things,  including  libraries.  Till  about  1400  A.D.,  the  history 
of  Ladakh  and  Baltistan  continued  to  be  bound  up  together.  But  later 
on  when  Baltis  became  Mohammedans,  conflicts  cropped  up. 

In  1644  when  Manchus  came  in  power  in  China  they  instigated 
Tibetans  for  expansion  to  west.  At  that  time  Tibet  used  to  be  a  vassal 
State  of  China.  The  Tibetans  attacked  Ladakh  (around  1646)  and  took 
Indus  valley  in  their  possession  for  about  three  years.  Then  the  king  of 
Ladakh  asked  for  help  from  the  Mughal  Emperor  of  then  India.  The 
Mughal  troops  defeated  Tibetans  in  1650  A.D.  at  Basgo.  Deldan  Namgyal 
(1640-75)  accepted  Mughal  sovereignty.  He  accepted  Islam,  and  in  1665 
a  mosque  was  built  at  Leh.  Actually  the  Mughal  army  helped  Ladakh 
ruler  to  retire  Mongol-Tibetan  army  beyond  ancient  border.  Under  the 
conditions  Namgyal  started  paying  annual  tribute  to  the  Mughal  gover¬ 
nor  of  Kashmir.  But  when  Sikhs  conquered  Kashmir  in  1819  Ladakh 
snapped  its  link  with  it.  When  Tsepal  Mingyur  Dondub  Namgyal 
(1800-34)  wanted  to  transfer  his  allegiance  to  the  British  government, 
Gulab  Singh  the  Dogra  chief  sent  his  army  to  take  Ladakh  in  1834. 
Zorawar  Singh  under  the  orders  of  Gulab  Singh  (the  Raja  of  Jammu), 
led  six  expeditions  to  Ladakh  between  1834  and  1841.  He  conquered 
Ladakh  and  Baltistan.  After  Zorawar’s  death  in  1841,  while  fighting 
against  Tibetans,  Ladakh  again  declared  its  independence.  However, 
Gulab  Singh’s  title  to  Ladakh  was  confirmed  after  Anglo-Sikh  war  of 
1845.  Since  1947  Ladakh  became  a  part  of  India  after  the  accession 
of  Jammu  and  Kashmir  State  to  Indian  union. 

In  the  past  the  government  was  administered  by  the  Prime  Minister 
known  as  Khalun  or  Kahlon  though  there  used  to  be  a  ruler,  king 
or  emperor,  who  bore  the  title  of  Gyalpo.  The  affairs  were,  however, 
mostly  conducted  by  Kahlon.  All  offerings  used  to  be  given  to  the 
Gyalpo  by  the  subjects.  Kahlon’s  positions  was  almost  hereditary 
and  could  be  given  to  any  member  of  Kahlon’s  family.  The  king’s  favour 
was  a  major  factor  in  Kahlon’s  selection.  There  was  some  recognition 
to  the  popularity  and  ability  of  person.  Then  there  were  petty  Gyalpos 
and  Kahlons  called  Depons  or  district  chiefs.  The  district  level  Kahlons 
were  also  termed  as  Tan-zuis.  These  petty  Kaholns  were  identified  by  their 
association  with  the  names  of  district  on  which  they  ruled.  The  Kahlon 


fME  LA  DA  Rill 

was  assisted  by  Nuna  Kahlon,  or  deputy,  the  Lom-pa  or  chief  municipal 
and  military  officer  and  governor  of  Leh,  the  Chug-zat,  or  treasurer  (who 
normally  happened  to  be  a  Lama),  the  Banka,  or  master  of  the  horse, 
Kharpon,  or  the  commander  of  fort,  Shakspon,  or  the  chief  justice  and 
Khrimpons  or  the  magistrates.  At  village  level,  Goba  or  Mipon  (head¬ 
man  of  the  village)  looked  after  the  affairs.  Criminal  and  revenue  matters 
were  directly  communicated  by  Goba  to  Kahlons  and  Chug-zat  or 
Chagsot.  Most  of  these  officials  were  paid  through  assignment  of  land 
and  through  claims  on  the  people  for  contributions  of  articles  of  daily 
use.  The  income  from  imports  on  merchandise  in  transit  were  divided 
among  the  king,  Kahlon  and  the  Lim-pa  or  Lon-po.  The  major  source 
of  their  income,  however,  remained  the  trade  which  they  carried  on  in 
shawl,  wool  and  tea. 

The  Kahlon,  Lon-po  and  Goba  were  also  to  furnish  armed  soldiers 
to  government  whenever  required.  It  has  been  reported  that  there  was 
no  regular  army  in  Ladakh.  In  case  of  need  each  family  was  to  supply 
one  man  to  act  as  soldier.  The  family  also  managed  to  feed  him  during 
this  deputation.  The  arms,  horse  and  pony  were  also  supplied  by  the 
family.  Kahlons  and  Gobas  were  given  title  of  honour  for  their  supply 
of  troops  and  the  accessories.  Thus,  there  was  an  armed  peasantry  in 
place  of  regular  army.  Since  Zorawar’s  time  some  regular  army  was 
raised  in  Ladakh.  In  addition,  the  Goba  of  every  village  was  bound  to 
provide  a  carrier  for  carrying  the  mail  from  his  village  to  the  next  one. 

Featherstone  (1926:219)  has  stated  that  “The  administration  of  Ladakh 
is  in  charge  of  Wazir  Wazarat.  He  has  little  to  do*  for  crime  is  rare,  the 
chief  complaints  being  over  plots  of  land  and  stealing  of  fuel  and  trees. 
His  main  function  is  supervision  of  trade  in  the  summer  months.  He 
is  assisted  by  subordinates  in  various  districts  who  are  responsible  for 
helping  carabaners  and  furnishing  animals  and  grains.  A  British  official, 
known  as  the  British  Joint  Commissioner  in  Ladakh,  who  resides  in  Leh 
during  part  of  the  summer  months,  looks  after  the  interest  of  traders  and 
all  matters  of  importance  are  placed  before  him”. 

For  traders,  travellers  and  sportsmen  the  State  made  adequate  arran¬ 
gements.  State  Kothis,  containing  grains,  were  maintained  on  the  Treaty 
High  Road  (Srinagar,  Leh  and  beyond)  at  Brass,  Kargil,  Lamayuru, 
Saspul,  Leh  and  Panamik.  Wheat  and  Giram  were  available.  The 
local  shopkeepers  at  Drass,  Kargil  and  Leh  arranged  for  rice  and  dais. 
Indents,  within  the  entitlement  limit,  were  given  to  the  Kothis  by  the 
needy.  The  British  Joint  Commissioner  also  appointed  Parao  Thekadars 
(contractors)  at  various  places,  enroute,  to  arrange  for  the  supply 
of  butter,  milk,  fowls,  eggs,  sheep,  oil,  firewood  and  grass.  For  all 
commodities  the  parao  rates  were  fixed.  Besides  this  the  administration 
had  introduced  Res  System  for  the  benefit  of  traders  and  travellers.  An 
account  of  the  Res  System,  as  prevalent  in  1931,  runs  in  the  sentences 
that  follow.  k  Res  is  a  system  by  which  a  village  or  group  of  villages  is 
bound  to  supply  transport  for  certain  stages  on  certain  roads.  The  word 


transport  means  and  includes  men  and  animals  and  for  carrying  passengers 
and  goods  from  place  to  place.  There  were  limits  to  Res  transport  for 
various  station — ponies,  Zos  and  coolies  were  fixed.  Public  servants, 
bonafide  travellers  and  Central  Asian  traders  were  entitled  to  use  Res 
transport.  The  use  was  confined  to  personal  luggage,  in  the  case  of  first 
two  categories  and  merchandise  in  the  case  of  traders.  A  pony  carried 
two-and-a-half  maunds  of  weight,  a  coolie  carried  35  seers  in  Summer 
and  25  seers  in  winter.  Res  transport  could  be  used  only  on  Treaty  High 
Road.  For  all  purposes  of  the  road  transport,  arrangement  must  be  made 
through  local  Zaildar.  Res  register  was  filled  by  the  user  with  details. 
In  case  of  a  large  camp  staying  in  a  village  where  there  is  no  regular  stage, 
its  requirements  of  transport  were  met  in  due  proportion  by  the  group 
of  villages  to  which  that  village  belonged  under  the  Res  arrangements. 
There  were  fixed  rates,  varying  from  place  to  place  for  pony  and  coolie’. 

After  Indian  Independence  when  Ladakh  became  a  district  of  Jammu 
and  Kashmir  State  of  India,  the  territory  was  first  politically  repssented 
by  Kushok  Rakula  (the  head  of  Spituk  monastery)  when  he  became 
the  Minister  of  Ladakh  affairs  in  Jammu  and  Kashmir  State  in  1963. 
After  that  Kushok  Bakula  was  nominated,  and  later  elected  too,  as  a 
member  of  Indian  parliament.  In  addition  to  Kushok  Bakula,  Wanggyal 
became  a  Minister  in  State  Legislature.  The  civil  administration  of 
Ladakh  is  now  headed  by  the  Deputy  Commissioner-cum  Develop¬ 
ment  Commissioner.  For  any  and  every  matter,  he  is  directly  respon¬ 
sible  to  the  Chief  Minister  of  Jammu  and  Kashmir  who  handles  the  money 
allotted  by  the  Central  Government.  Besides  civil  administration,  the 
military  and  para-military  organisations  have  also  been  serving  in  Ladakh 
after  1947. 



Ethnic  Composition  and  Social  Stratification 

Ladakh  is  represented  by  two  major  population  groups.  The 
Ladakhis  and  other  followers  of  Buddhism  are  inhabiting  Leh  and  Zans- 
kar;  while  the  Muslims  are  largely  concentrated  in  Kargil.  In  fact  the 
Muslims  are  spread  between  the  Himalayan  and  the  Zanskar  ranges, 
specially  between  the  Jojila  and  Fotula  depressions.  The  Indus  valley 
is  populated  by  the  Buddhists. 

In  Ladakh  there  has  been  blending  of  various  population  groups. 
Some  of  the  Aryans,  represented  by  the  Dards  and  the  Mons,  got  mixed 
up  with  the  people  of  Mongolian  origin.  Presently  the  Ladakhis,  inclu¬ 
ding  Chanspa  of  Chang-thang  area,  and  the  Baltis  represent  the  Mongo¬ 
lian  element.  The  Baltis  profess  Islamic  faith  and  the  Ladakhis  are 
Buddhists.  The  Dards,  the  Mons  and  the  Bedas  represent  the  Aryan 
element.  But  because  of  intermixing,  the  Mons  and  the  Bedas  do  not 
seem  to  be  categorically  distinct  from  the  Ladakhis.  The  Dards,  how¬ 
ever,  do  represent,  till  today,  as  a  different  racial  group.  The  Mons 
are  the  Buddhists  and  the  Bedas  are  usually  the  Muslims.  There  are 
a  few  Muslim  Mons  and  Buddhist  Beda  too.  The  Mons  who  opted 
for  Islam  were  termed  as  the  Bedas.  This  derivation,  however,  does  not 
seem  to  hold  true  in  all  the  cases.  Some  of  the  Dardis  adopted  Buddhist 
faith  and  came  to  be  known  as  Dogpa  or  Brogpa.  The  religion  of  the 
people  of  Nubra  valley  has  been  affected  by  the  religions  prevalent  in 
Sinkiang  and  Pakistan  on  the  one  hand,  and  Buddhism  of  Shyok  on  the 
other.  Even  among  the  people  living  in  the  north  of  the  Ladakh  range, 
especially  in  the  Nubra  valley,  some  admixture  of  blood  is  marked. 
There  is  some  resemblance  to  the  Turkish  physical  features. 

More  elaborately  the  Ladakhi  population  is  categorised  into  the 
following  distinct  groups  : 

1.  Ladakhi  or  Bhoto,  Boto,  Bhautta,  Bodh,  Bodpa 

2.  Mon  (Masician — flute  player) 

3.  Gara  (Ironsmith) 

4.  Beda  (Musician — Drum  player) 

5.  Muslims,  including  Balti,  Kashmiri  and  Argons 

6.  Chanspa  or  Changpa  (Pastoralists  of  highland) 

7.  Christians 

8.  Hindus  belonging  to  various  caste  groups 



9.  Sikhs 

10.  Dogpa  or  Brokpa 

1 1 .  Dard 

12.  Tibetans  (lately  colonized  in  Ladakh) 

Some  of  these  groups  follow  specific  occupation,  the  rest  have  more 
than  one  occupation.  Within  the  ethnic  heterogeneity  of  Ladakh,  the 
Mons  and  the  Dards  are  regarded  as  the  earliest  inhabitants.  They 
were  followed  by  the  people  from  Tibet,  Baltistan  and  Central  Asia. 
Now  almost  every  Buddhist  village,  of  an  average  size,  has  one  or  two 
families  of  the  Mon,  the  Gara  and  the  Beda.  They  are  treated,  by  others, 
as  socially  inferior.  The  Garas  are  blacksmiths  and  the  Mons  and  the 
Bedas  are  the  musicians.  A  few  beggar  Bedas  have  also  been  observed. 
The  Mons  are  considered  as  the  descendants  of  an  Indian  tribe  of 
colonists  associated  with  early  Buddhist  missionaries. 

The  word  Ladakhi  does  not  refer  to  any  and  every  inhabitant  of 
Ladakh.  It  does  signify  a  specific  ethnic  group.  Ladakhi  apart,  the 
other  synonyms  of  this  ethnic  group  are  Bhot,  Bod,  Bodh,  Bot-pa, 
Bhautta  or  Bota.  And  it  is  chiefly  on  this  group  that  this  study  is 
focused.  The  word  Bhot,  in  fact,  refers  to  Buddhist  Tibetans.  When 
this  nomenclature  is  applied  to  the  inhabitants  beyond  Jojila,  it  reflects 
that  these  people  have  originally  migrated  from  Tibet.  Some  of  my 
informants  from  Spituk  village  have  informed  that  their  ancestors  came 
from  China.  And  those  who  came  initially  were  not  the  Buddhists. 
The  immigrants  adopted  Buddhism  in  later  years.  The  statement  sup¬ 
ports  that  the  Ladakhis  came  to  Ladakh  prior  to  the  spread  of  Buddhism 
in  the  area.  Differing  from  above  is  the  version  of  another  group  of 
Ladakhi  informants  who  profess  that  their  ancestors  came  from  Mongolia 
and  Tibet  between  500  to  600  A.D.  In  support  of  this  explanation, 
people  say  that  the  Ladakhis  living  towards  Kargil  are  still  termed  as 
Pot-rik,  meaning  Tibetan  generation.  It  shows  that  they  are  the 
descendants  of  Tibetans.  Cunningham  gives  Mongolian  origin  of  the 
Ladakhis  and  states  that  they  now  differ  from  Mongolian  because  of 
the  admixture  of  Hindu  blood,  especially  the  mixture  with  the  Caucasian 
race  of  India.  The  intermixing  of  Ladakhis  with  the  Muslim  has  also 
been  reported.  The  Ladakhi  women  embraced  Islamic  faith  after 
marrying  the  Muslims. 

With  high  and  prominent  cheek  bones,  the  Ladakhis  have  broad 
and  flat  faces.  Some  obliquity  is  marked  in  the  eyes  having  an  epican- 
thic  fold.  The  mouth  is  large  with  prominent  lips.  The  nostrils  are 
quite  wide  and  the  nose  is  broad  as  well  as  flat.  The  colour  of  the  eyes 
is  black  to  brown.  They  have  scanty  hair  growth.  The  head  hair  are 
straight  to  slight  wavy.  Women  are  short  statured  but  the  men  have  a 
medium  height.  Some  are  tall  also.  The  Ladakhis  are  sturdy  but  not 
very  mascular.  Their  actions  involving  physical  exertion  are  slow.  This 



is  in  adjustment  with  the  high  altitude  and  lack  of  oxygen.  Breathless¬ 
ness  is  caused  if  the  actions  are  fast. 

The  dialect  of  the  Ladakhis  is  called  Ladakhi  and  it  is  most  akin 
to  Tibetan.  Bodhi  is  their  written  language  and  this  is  little  different 
from  Tibetan  and  is  a  mixture  of  Tibetan  and  Ladakhi.  Printing  of  a 
monthly  journal  in  Bodhi,  known  as  “Ladakh  News”  was  started  in 
1903  by  the  people  of  Moravian  mission  in  Leh.  The  language  of  the 
Ladakhis  is  associated  with  Tibeto-Burmese  family.  Instance  of  admix¬ 
ture  of  Hindi  and  English  is  also  reported. 

The  Ladakhis  are  very  cheerful  people  and  try  to  make  any  event 
as  gaiety.  This  cheerfulness  is  manifest  in  their  singing,  dancing  and 
drinking  Chang,  a  mild  intoxicant.  For  recreation  and  amusement 
the  men  and  the  women  sing  and  dance.  This  is  usually  done  in  groups. 
Dancing  is  considered  as  good  quality  of  a  person,  and  is  regarded  as 
favourite  pastime.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  in  olden  days  the  king’s 
gloom  was  also  dispelled  by  Takchos  or  dancing  females.  Such  females 
represented  good  families  and  felt  proud  of  their  dancing  skill.  With 
their  known  hospitality,  the  Ladakhis  are  quite  friendly,  simple  and 
docile.  Their  account  of  simplicity,  as  given  by  Major  Singh,  is  worthy 
of  mention.  “The  simplicity  of  Ladakhi  is  so  naive  and  unaffected 
that  one  is  both  amused  and  drawn  spontaneously  to  him”.  Perhaps 
the  best  illustration  of  this  charming  trait  is  provided  by  a  remark  of  an 
American  Journalist  I  read  in  1963.  A  Ladakhi  father  had  taken  his 
children  to  the  Leh  airfield  to  show  them  and  indeed  see  for  himself,  the 
plane  land  and  take  off.  They  saw  a  packet  land,  unload  its  cargo  of 
two  jeeps  and  take  off  again.  The  jeeps  were  driven  away  across  the 
landing  strip.  The  father  was  heard  remarking  to  his  children,  “My 
sons,  these  two  babies  (jeeps)  too  will  grow  wings  and  then  one  day  fly 
off  like  their  mother,  yonder”  (1969:13).  Their  love  for  hospitality 
is  reflected  when  they  quickly  refill  your  cup  of  Chang  or  Our  Gur  (tea) 
as  soon  as  you  take  a  sip  out  of  the  filled  cup. 

They  are  not  offensive  and  have  been  tolerant  and  accommodating 
people  from  other  religious  faiths.  The  instances  of  marriage  between 
Muslims  and  Ladakhis  are  many.  Patience  and  tolerance  are  insepara- 
table  from  Ladakhi  way  of  life.  The  Ladakhis  are  honest  and  truthful. 
Lately,  however,  some  change  in  regard  to  their  honesty,  truthfulness  and 
telerance  have  been  marked.  Their  passion  for  peace  and  straight¬ 
forwardness  have  partly  been  adversely  affected  after  the  closer  contact 
with  the  outsiders.  The  Ladakhis,  however,  continue  to  be  mild  and 
frank  in  the  more  isolated  localities.  Good-tempered,  the  Ladakhis 
maintain  their  laugh  even  in  certin  adverse  circumstances.  They  are 
comparatively  poor  but  at  the  same  time  willing.  Most  of  them  believe 
in  having  minimum  wants  and  necessities  of  life.  Barring  some,  the 
rest  are  contented  with  whatever  little  material  possession  they  have. 

People  are  free  of  untouchability.  They  are  very  social  beings 
and  avail  of  any  opportunity  in  which  Chang  is  used.  Another  charac- 



teristic  of  the  Ladakhis  is  that  they  normally  do  not  stick  to  fixed  hours 
or  parts  of  the  day  for  most  of  their  activities.  Those  in  employment 
have  started  becoming  regular.  Others  eat  and  drink  any  time.  In 
fact  most  of  the  time  one  finds  them  eating  and  drinking.  The  Ladakhis 
are  very  fond  of  gossiping.  In  winter,  when  outside  activities  are 
curtailed,  they  keep  on  gossiping  inside  the  house.  Most  of  them  do 
not  smoke.  They  are,  however,  fond  if  taking  snuff  in  leisure  hours. 
Tobacco  smoking  is  considered  as  vice.  A  few,  specially  those  in  regular 
employment,  have  started  smoking  cigarette.  Common  man  apart,  the 
Lamas  also  make  use  of  snuff.  They  find  it  stimulant  and  exchange  pinch 
of  snuff  when  meet  each  other. 

The  Ladakhis  are  fond  of  archery  and  often  organize  competitions 
for  the  same.  The  competition  is  turned  into  a  festive  occasion  when  the 
participants,  and  even  others,  consume  lot  of  Chang  and  Gur  Gur.  The 
competition,  accompanied  by  loud  music,  provided  by  the  Mon  and 
Beda,  continues  for  the  whole  day,  or  even  for  two  days.  The  funds 
used  on  the  occasion  are  raised  from  the  participants.  Prizes,  in  cash, 
are  given  to  the  winners.  A  part  of  the  amount  is  given  to  the  musi¬ 
cians.  The  Lamas  also  organize  archery  competitions  which  close 
with  group  singing  and  dancing. 

The  systematic  organization  of  Darsis  (archery  competition)  is  in 
itself  an  interesting  feature.  It  includes  amusement,  entertainment, 
competition,  outing,  community  feeling,  unity,  and  the  break  of  mono¬ 
tony  in  life.  A  day  is  fixed  by  Narpu,  the  organizer  of  archery.  Some 
contributions,  in  cash,  are  raised  from  all  the  probable  participants.  The 
subscription  money  is  used  for  giving  away  the  prizes  to  the  winners  as 
well  as  for  providing  Chang  and  Gur  Gur.  The  place,  which  is  usually 
an  open  space  in  or  around  the  village,  and  the  day  of  the  competition 
are  then  announced.  The  villagers  turn  up  in  high  spirits  with  bows 
and  arrows.  On  this  occasion  the  ladies  and  gents  are  nicely  dressed. 
A  target  to  hit  the  arrow  is  then  fixed  in  a  sand  heap.  This  target  is 
normally  a  small  cardboard  piece  attached  to  the  head  of  a  wooden  stick 
fixed  in  the  sand.  A  line  on  the  ground  is  then  marked  at  a  distance 
of  10  to  15  yards  from  the  target.  All  the  bows  and  arrows  are  kept 
near  this  line.  The  competition  is  between  the  individuals,  as  also 
between  the  teams.  Fixed  number  of  chances  are  given  to  each  individual 
to  hit  the  target.  An  experienced  man  is  appointed  as  referee.  He 
informs  the  recorder  about  the  correct  and  accurate  hits.  The  game  of 
archery  starts  around  10.00  a.m.  and  continues  till  sun  set.  The  parti¬ 
cipants  keep  on  sipping  Chang  and  Gur  Gur  as  and  when  required. 
Towards  the  close  of  the  competition  the  men  and  the  women  dance  with 
loud  singing.  Such  a  group  dance  marks  the  end  of  function. 

The  archery  competitions  are  organized  even  by  the  religious  persons. 
After  Lumb-rim  worship,  the  Kushok  (head  of  monastry)  and  Lamas  of 
Spituk  Gompa  (monastery)  organized  archery  competition  for  two  days 
during  the  course  of  my  fieldwork.  The  Kushok,  Lochos,  inaugurated 



it  by  shooting  first  arrow  at  the  target.  So  long  as  the  Kushok  sat  there, 
he  initiated  for  all  the  rounds  of  competition.  A  Mon  and  a  Beda  were 
operating  on  the  traditional  music.  Some  villagrs,  including  the  Kotwal, 
were  helping  the  Lamas  in  the  preparation  of  Gur  Gur  and  food.  My 
entry  and  participation  in  the  function  were  also  allowed  and  appreciated 
by  the  Kushok  and  other  Lamas.  I  happened  to  know  most  of  them  as 
I  was  staying  and  working  in  that  village.  The  religious  men  were 
sitting  in  line,  keeping  in  view  their  religious  seniority,  with  table  in  front 
of  each,  having  cups  of  Gur  Gur  and  some  other  eatables.  A  few  villa¬ 
gers,  especially  the  prominent  ones,  also  participated  after  seeking  per¬ 
mission  from  Kushok.  For  both  the  days,  the  dancing  and  singing 
were  arranged  towards  the  close  of  the  competition.  The  religious 
persons  arranged  their  sitting  and  dancing  separate  from  the  common 
village  folks.  During  day  time  too,  the  Lamas  sat  on  a  slightly  raised 
platform  a  bit  separate  from  general  public.  At  times  the  Lamas  did  some 
dramatic  gestures  to  provide  humour  to  the  spectators.  Every  partici¬ 
pant  who  hit  the  target  was  given  prize;  the  amount  varying  from  time 
to  tim?.  Out  of  cash  prize,  the  winner  gave  rupees  five  to  Dum  Dum- 
walas  (musicians).  The  occasion  was  full  of  fun  and  laughter. 

The  Argons  or  Argands  originated  from  Kashmiri  Muslim  father 
and  Ladakhi  mother.  Such  alliances  took  place  in  Leh  where  Kashmiri 
Muslims  came  for  trade  and  commerce.  Some,  however,  explain  that 
the  Argons  have  not  only  descended  from  Kashmiri  Muslim  fathers  but 
are  mixed  breed  of  Indian  state  soldiers  and  other  male  traders  who  kept 
the  Ladakhi  females  as  temporary  wives  also.  According  to  Hedin  (1910), 
a  Yarkandi  father  and  Lamaist  mother’s  union  produced  a  race,  called 
Argon  distinguished  by  extraordinarily  well  developed  mascular  stature. 
His  single  parentage  version  does  not  seem  to  be  correct.  While  writing 
about  Argons,  Featherstone  (1926:213)  has  stated  that  “They  are  the 
result  of  a  cross  between  a  Turkestan  father  and  a  Ladakhi  mother.  They 
have  a  kind  of  monopoly  of  the  transport  of  goods  between  Leh  and 
Yarkand.  They  are  said  to  be  increasing  in  numbers  as  they  have  a 
home  both  in  Yarkand  and  Leh,  with  a  wife  or  two  in  each  place.  The 
fact  of  a  Ladakhi  woman  pairing  with  Turcoman  trader  during  the 
trading  season  appears  to  carry  with  it  no  stigma.  This  comparative 
looseness  of  the  marriage  tie  is  shown  more  particularly  in  the  system 
of  fraternal  polyandry”. 

In  the  villages  around  Leh,  where  the  Argons  are  largely  concentra¬ 
ted,  it  was  observed  that  the  dress,  houses,  language  and  economy  of  the 
Argons  are  exactly  like  the  Ladakhis.  In  certain  ceremonies,  observed 
by  the  Buddhists,  the  Argons  participate  in  the  same  style  as  the  other 
Ladakhis  do.  Such  participation  was  specially  observed  in  Nang-Dun, 
a  ceremony  observed  after  the  birth  of  a  child  in  Sabu  village.  In  the 
ceremonial  sphere  of  Ladakhis,  where  the  Argons  participate,  the  former 
do  reciprocate.  Such  situtions  mark  fusion  of  Islamic  and  Buddhist 
cultural  traits. 



The  Chanspa  (also  known  as  Chanpa  or  Changpa)  are  herders  and 
lead  a  nomadic  life.  They  domesticate  goats  and  sheep.  These  tent- 
dwellers  lead  a  very  hard  life  and  keep  on  migrating  according  to  weather 
conditions  and  availability  of  pasturage  for  the  animals.  The  Chanspas 
also  keep  the  horses,  mules,  yaks  and  dogs.  Their  nomadic  cycle  is 
confined  to  the  south-east  of  Ladakh.  While  mobile,  the  Chanspas  ride 
on  horse  back  and  use  sheep,  mules  and  yaks  as  pack  animals.  Apart 
from  cattle  breeding,  the  trade  is  also  a  source  of  earning.  1  happened  to 
meet  some  Chanspas  between  Dungti  and  Demchok  and  observed  that 
they  maintain  very  unhygienic  condition.  Bearing  long  head  hair,  the 
Chanspas  are  quite  strong.  In  the  solitude  of  high  hills,  their  animals 
are  their  best  company.  The  Chanspa  nomads  are  basically  pastoralists 
and  are  the  closest  friends  of  nature.  Featherstone  stresses  on  a 
close  ethnic  association  of  Chanspas  with  Ladakhis.  According  to  him 
“the  Chanspas  are  a  class  of  Ladakhis  who  are  nomads  and  follow 
pastoral  pursuits  in  the  uplands  which  are  too  high  for  cultivation” 

The  Dards  live  in  a  few  villages  in  the  lower  Indus  valley,  especially 
around  Hanu-Dah.  They  remain  under  dirty  and  unhygienic  conditions. 
It  is  believed  by  them  that  if  they  use  water  for  bathing  and  washing 
purposes  their  deity  would  get  annoyed  and.  cause  harm  to  them.  The 
water,  they  believe,  is  meant  only  for  drinking.  For  Dards,  the  drinking 
of  cow’s  milk  and  eating  of  eggs  is  taboo.  The  cow  is  held,  in  abho¬ 
rrence.  Even  the  butter  is  not  produced  by  them.  At  night  they  do  not 
use  light  in  their  houses.  The  darkness  is  believed  to  be  preferred  by 
the  deity.  The  Dards  depend  on  agriculture.  Within  the  bounds  of 
religious  fear,  the  Dards  continue  to  maintain  their  age-old  customs, 
traditions  and  manneis.  While  greeting  each  other  they  twirl  their  hats 
in  front  of  them.  The  girls  are  allowed  to  have  friends  and  the  latter 
are  represented  by  needles  lianing  in  their  hats.  Some  of  the  Dards  have 
adopted  Buddhist  faith  and  consequently  termed  a  Brogpas  or  Dogmas. 
Many  of  the  Dards  became  Muslims  and  adopted  Islamic  way  of  life. 
The  Dards  of  Da,  however,  continue  to  retain  originality  in  most  of  their 
life-designs.  Among  Dards  the  women  are  marked  with  sun  bonnets 
and  Nordic  features.  Some  of  the  Dards  whom  I  met  in  Leh,  when 
they  had  come  there  on  short  trip,  were  having  rosy  cheeks,  with  lot  of 
dirt  on  them.  Each  woman  had  as  many  as  ten  to  fifteen  hair  plates 
hanging  all  around  the  cheeks  and  the  neck.  They  are  free  in  thier 
movements,  though  not  indulging  indiscriminate  mixing.  With  their 
typical  hair-do,  dress  and  physical  features,  the  Dards  could  be  easily 
distinguished  in  the  crowd  of  Leh. 

Social  Stratification 

All  the  four  villages  studied  by  me  are  predominantly  Buddhist. 
Ladakhi  apart  the  other  Buddhist  population  in  these  villages  is  represen- 



ted.  by  the  Ga ra,  Mon  and  Beda.  Except  Kuyul,  each  of  the  other  three 
villages  is  having  one  family  each  of  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  In  Spituk, 
Sabu  and  Thiksay  live  a  small  number  of  Baltis  and  Argons.  Though 
small  in  number,  these  five  ethnic  groups  have  had,  since  past,  a  specific 
relationship  not  only  among  themselves  but  also  with  the  dominant 
Ladakhis.  Set  customary  norms  of  behaviour  and  inter-relationship 
exist,  and  the  same  are  reflected  in  different  ways  of  life.  Some  of  these 
groups  are  also  characterised  by  a  definite  social  hierarchy.  These 
groups  apart  some  Tibetan  refugees  have  lately  been  settled  near  Spituk 
and  Sabu  and  they  too  are  treated  by  the  Ladakhis  in  a  specific  way. 
For  centuries  the  Ladakhis  are  living  together  with  Gara,  Mon,  Beda, 
Balti  and  Argon.  Simultaneous  to  the  inequality  and  stratification  in 
social  positions  of  various  groups,  the  village  community  involves 
interdependence  among  the  members  of  these  groups.  The  social  hierarchy 
of  the  village  community  is  as  under  : 


1.  Ladakhi  or  Bhoto,  Boto,  Bhautta  etc.  (Also  known  as  Mangric) 

2.  Gara  I 

3.  Mon  >  Also  known  as  Dolba 

4.  Beda  ) 


1 .  Balti 

2.  Argon 

The  Ladakhis  are  agriculturists  and  the  animal  husbandry  men. 
They  are  in  the  stream  of  peasantry  though,  in  the  past,  they  were  involved 
in  trading  with  Central  Asian  countries,  Yarkhand  and  Kashmir.  Some 
of  them  also  go  in  for  carpentry  and  masonary  works.  After  1947, 
when  Government  of  India  created  additional  employment  avenues,  many 
Ladakhis  have  joined  services.  Under  the  massive  programmes  of 
development  of  Ladakh  there  is  great  scope  for  labour  employment.  The 
Bhoto  men  and  women  are  seen  working,  usually  as  unskilled  labourers, 
in  various  construction  sites.  They  rear  various  kinds  of  animals  and 
own  big  herds  of  cattle,  especially  of  sheep  and  goats.  Some  people 
are  involved  in  tending  cattle  to  high-lands  in  summer.  In  winter  they 
come  down  to  low-lands.  Such  a  mobility  is  conditioned  by  the  avai¬ 
lability  of  pastures  for  the  cttle.  While  mobile  they  live  in  tents  which 
they  carry  along.  Some  of  the  animal  products  help  to  enrich  the  Ladakhi 
diet.  Next  to  Gompa,  the  Bhotos  are  the  chief  owners  of  cultivable  land. 
But  still  there  are  some  landless  Ladakhis  who  depend  on  ohter  means 
than  the  agriculture. 

The  Garas  have  been  doing  blacksmithy.  They  continue  to  prepare 
and  provide  all  kinds  of  iron  implements  and  tools  to  the  needy  villagers. 



Some  of  them  also  own  land  and  do  agriculture  as  a  subsidiary  occupa- 
pation.  The  Ladakhis  consider  Gara  as  socially  low  because  of  the 
blacksmithy  profession.  In  Tibet  too,  from  where  the  Ladakhis  are 
believed  to  have  come,  a  blacksmith  ranks  lower.  Between  Gara  and 
other  ethnic  groups  in  the  village  there  is  a  specific  kind  of  relationship 
involving  rendering  of  service  and  returns.  It  does,  to  some  extent, 
resemble  the  Jajmani  (patron-client)  system  of  caste  society  of  plain 
India.  For  any  iron  tool  or  implement,  to  be  made  from  Gara,  the 
needy  ones  supply  the  iron.  The  workmanship  is  provided  by  the  Gara, 
and  for  which  he  gets  the  traditionally  prescribed  remuneration  in  cash 
as  well  as  kind.  Under  the  system,  as  prevalent  in  Spituk,  a  Gara  makes 
and  repairs  various  iron  implements  throughout  the  year  for  the  families 
whom  he  serves.  He  also  provides,  locks  and  keys.  In  return,  he  gets 
seven  to  .fifteen  seers  of  wheat  from  each  family  he  serves.  More  of 
it  is  given  after  the  harvesting  is  over,  and  the  rest  before  the  start  of 
sowing.  At  times  the  Gara  is  also  given  butter.  In  addition  a  Gara 
also  receives  Bojha  (headload  of  fodder)  from  every  family  for  whom 
he  makes  and  repairs  iron  implements.  On  the  occasion  of  a  worship 
organized  in  a  Ladakhi  house,  the  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  do  attend.  They 
are  served  meals  over  there,  and  while  returning  each  of  them  is  given 
a  bag  of  Sattu  (flour  of  baked  wheat  and  barley).  One  bag  weighs  about 
a  kilogramme.  On  the  day  of  Losar,  a  Ladakhi  festival,  the  Gara  supplies 
iron  needles  to  each  family  he  serves  and  gets  food  in  return  and  about 
a  kilogramme  of  Sattu.  When  a  child  is  born  in  a  family  the  Gara  is 
given  two  seers  of  Sattu.  In  marriage  he  gets  food  and  Sattu. 

The  Mons  and  Bedas  are  professional  musicians.  They  have  been, 
for  centuries,  playing  on  flutes  and  drums.  Musical  performance  is  a 
prerequisite  to  certain  celebrations  connected  to  Ladakhi  life  and  culture. 
By  and  large  the  Mons  and  Bedas  are  landless  and  work  as  labourers 
whenever  they  find  themselves  free  from  giving  musical  performance.  A 
few  of  the  Mons  own  small  acreage  of  cultivable  land.  Some  are  also 
engaged  in  carpentry.  A  few  of  the  Bedas,  specially  the  landless  ones, 
depend  on  begging  .  As  beggars  they  move  from  village  to  village.  Such 
beggars  are  mostly  the  Buddhist  Bedas  who  move  with  their  tents  and 
stop  at  a  place  convenient  to  their  requirements.  They  keep  dogs  and 
pack  animals,  usually  the  donkeys.  The  Mons  are  permanently  settled 
and  thinly  scattered,  having  one  or  two  families  in  each  village.  The 
land-owning  Mons  do  not  cultivate  it  themselves.  Rather,  they  get  it 
cultivated  by  a  Bhoto  who  is  in  possession  of  resource  for  the  purpose. 
On  most  of  the  occasions  the  musicians,  in  attendance,  are  served  Gur 
Gur,  Chang,  and  food.  Money  is  given  only  in  the  occasions  of  marriage 
and  birth.  A  main  source  of  income  to  a  Mon  musician  is  the  annual 
gift  which  he  receives  from  all  the  peasant  families  after  the  harvesting 
of  crops  is  over.  Depending  upon  the  economic  status  each  peasant 
famaly  spares  two  to  five  seers  of  wheat,  Grim  or  barley  for  the  Mon 
family.  This  act  is  more  or  less  obligatory  for  the  Ladakhis,  and  is  done 




in  recognition  of  the  services  of  Mon.  On  the  occasion  of  Losar  the  Mon 
offers  an  arrow  to  the  male  and  a  spinner  to  the  female  of  all  the  families 
he  serves.  These  articles  are  offered  only  to  the  senior  members  who 
reciprocate  through  the  offering  of  food  and  Sattu.  During  the  course 
of  Gyud,  a  dance  performed  at  the  time  of  marriage,  the  Mon  and  Be  da 
musicians  get  rupees  two  to  three  after  every  round.  At  the  start  of 
sowing  of  crops  the  Goru  songs  are  sung  by  the  Mons  and  Bedas.  These 
songs  are  sung  in  praise  of  the  cultivators,  livestock  and  the  crops.  In 
return  they  get  two  kilogrammes  of  grain  from  each  family.  After 
harvesting  the  Mon  and  Beda  visit  all  Ladakhi  families  and  provide 
Larango  music.  They  are  given  grain  and  salt  on  the  occasion.  After 
a  death  the  Mon  and  Beda  are  offered  two  kilogrammes  of  Sattu 

Dun  a  birth  ceremony  is  a  major  occasion  of  earning  for  Mon  and 
Beda.  They  not  only  get  grain  but  also  a  cash  award  of  rupees  five  each, 
after  every  round  of  Dun  dance.  The  Mon  and  Gara  provide  music 
even  to  Argon  and  Balti  and  are  suitably  rewarded. 

Most  of  the  Baltis  and  the  Argons  are  agriculrists.  They  own  land 
more  or  less  on  equal  footing  with  the  Ladakhis.  Some  got  into  regular 
employment.  There  are  still  others  who  survive  on  labour  job.  Except 
religion  their  life-ways  are  akin  to  the  Ladakhis.  The  Baltis,  however, 
consider  the  Argons  as  socially  inferior.  This  is  attributed  to  the  latter’s 
outcome  from  Muslim  father  and  Ladakhi  mother.  They  are,  in  fact, 
not  taken  as  pure  Muslims.  At  times  the  Ladakhis  and  Argons  share 
each  other’s  ceremonial  life.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  religuous  drifts 
on  the  part  of  Ladakhis  have  been  frequent  and  the  people,  in  the  past, 
did  tolerate  them  without  being  perturbed.  Many  Ladakhis  turned 
Muslims  and  vice-versa.  Ali,  a  Muslim  from  Spituk,  married  a  Buddhist 
girl  and  embraced  Buddhism.  He  continues  to  be  treated  like  any  other 
Buddhist.  All  his  sons  have  married  in  Ladakhi  Buddhist  families.  It 
could  also  be  reported  that  members  of  a  family  follow  different  religious 
faiths  even  while  staying  together  in  the  same  house.  They  work  together 
enjoying  the  liberty  of  cultivating  individual  religious  faith.  In  Thiksay 
two  real  brothers,  one  Christian  and  another  a  Buddhist,  were  observed 
living  together.  They  share  a  common  kitchen  and  eat  together.  If 
a  Buddhist,  turned  Christian,  does  not  find  a  Christian  girl  to  marry 
he  can  go  for  a  Buddhist  girl.  The  Buddhists  do  not  take  the  act  with 
any  seriousness,  knowing  that  the  Christian  families  are  only  few  and  do 
not  have  enough  girls  of  maniageable  age.  There  is  no  compulsion  on 
the  girl  to  beocme  Christian  after  she  marries  a  Christian  boy. 

Areas  of  social  differentiation 

In  the  village  layout  no  definite  places  have  been  marked  for  the 
members  of  different  ethnic  groups.  It  is  not  that  the  Ladakhis,  being 
socially  higher  in  position,  would  occupy  a  particular  section  where  none 



other  would  be  accommodated.  I  could  observe  Mon’s  house  near 
to  that  of  a  Ladakhi.  Also  the  house  of  a  Gara,  in  Spituk,  is  centrally 
located  and  surrounded  by  those  of  the  Ladakhis.  The  position  is,  thus, 
not  like  a  multicaste  village  of  plain  India  where,  in  most  of  the  cases, 
various  sections  are  typically  marked  by  the  specific  caste  groups.  The 
village  layout  is  independent  of  religious  consideration  too.  The  houses 
of  a  Balti  and  a  Bhoto,  in  Spituk,  are  just  adjoining  to  each  other.  How¬ 
ever,  a  common  pattern,  which  symbolises  the  social  superiority  of  the 
Ladakhis  over  others,  is  that  the  houses  of  the  Bhotos  are  nearer  to  the 
Gompa  (monastery).  In  general  the  houses,  belonging  to  others  than 
the  Ladakhis  ,  are  built  little  away  from  Gompa. 

A  Ladakhi,  being  socially  superiormost  in  Buddhist  order  of  village 
community,  describes  the  positions  of  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  through  an 
analogy  with  arrow.  A  Gara’s  position  is  comparable  to  the  ironhead 
of  an  arrow;  a  Mon’s  to  the  thread  work,  in  between  iron-head  and  the 
shafty,  and  the  Beda’s  position  as  equivalent  to  the  shaft,  the  last  portion 
of  the  arrow. 

There  is  no  customarily  proposed  taboo  for  entry  into  houses  belong¬ 
ing  to  any  group.  But  in  actual  practice  some  people  express  reluctance. 
I  could  observe  that  the  members  from  higher  group  were  usually  reluc¬ 
tant  to  enter  into  the  houses  of  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  My  interpreter, 
in  Spituk,  was  a  Ladakhi  and  I  could,  at  times,  smell  his  unwillingness 
to  accompany  me  to  the  house  of  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  He  would  prefer 
to  stand  outside  their  residence.  Even  the  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  were 
least  eager  to  take  me,  and  my  interpreter,  inside  their  houses.  This 
was  not  because  their  houses  were  shabby.  Those  owning  better  houses 
were  also  reluctant,  largely  out  of  their  inferior  social  status.  The  latter 
feeling  also  made  them  hesitant  to  offer  me,  and  my  interpreter,  Chang 
or  Gur  Gur.  Contrary  to  Spituk  my  interpreter  in  Thiksay  was  a  Mon. 
He  would  not  straight  enter  into  any  Ladakhi  house.  He  stopped  till 
the  owner  called  for  it.  Further,  the  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  would  always 
wish  a  Ladakhi  first  by  uttering  Zu-Zu  (style  of  wishing).  The  Ladakhis 
do  not  prefer  to  have  a  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  teacher  in  their  school 
because  their  children,  in  that  case,  will  have  to  say  Zu-Zu  to  him.  The 
Gara  Mon  and  Beda  social  inferiority  is  more  conspicuous  in  certain 

On  the  occasion  of  a  worship  or  feast,  organized  by  a  Ladakhi  family, 
invitees  are  made  to  sit  according  to  a  fixed  pattern.  This  order  is  tradi¬ 
tionally  fixed  in  the  light  of  the  positions  assigned  to  the  individuals  and 
the  groups  to  which  they  belong.  For  instance  the  positions,  marked  as 
superior  in  the  order  of  arrangement,  would  be  occupied  by  the  Ladakhis 
alone.  Next,  in  order,  would  come  the  Gara  who  would  then  be  followed 
by  the  Mon  and  Beda  respectively.  Even  the  serving  of  food  is  regulated 
in  the  same  process.  The  Ladakhi  tables  kept  in  front  of  the  invitees 
are  of  different  sizes.  The  biggest,  in  size  is  kept  in  front  of  the  Ladakhi, 
if  Lamas  are  not  there  in  the  feast.  The  size  of  the  tables  then  gradually 



decreases  while  coming  to  Gara.  The  Mons  and  the  Bedas  are  not 
served  on  the  tables.  Generally  they  receive  food  either  in  the  hands 
or  on  some  leaf,  or  in  their  personal  utensils  which  they  carry.  It  may 
be  mentioned  that  the  traditional  pattern  of  sitting  is  not  strictly  observed 
in  any  other  gathering  of  the  villagers.  For  instance  when  the  villagers 
gather  to  see  a  documentary  film  or  a  drama  they  may  sit  wherever  they 
find  convenient.  But  the  privilege  of  acting  as  spokesman  on  the  occasion 
again  goes  to  the  Ladakhis.  When  any  dignitory  visits  the  village  the 
Bhotos  come  forward  to  receive.  The  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  quietly 
retreat.  Also,  as  a  norm  of  their  relationship  the  former  are  never 
interrupted  by  the  latter  during  the  course  of  a  discussion.  Normally 
the  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  keep  quiet  and  this  speaks  of  their  submi¬ 
ssiveness  to  the  superior  group  of  Bhotos.  Such  an  order  of  precedence 
was  confirmed  more  than  once  during  the  course  of  my  stay  in  Ladakhi 

In  regard  to  commensal  relations  the  avoidance  of  inferiors  is  not 
that  sharply  defined  within  the  traditional  framework.  A  Ladakhi  can 
dine  in  the  house  of  a  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  There  are  no  customary 
norms  to  prevent  him  in  taking  food  in  the  houses  of  socially  inferior 
people.  But  in  actual  practice  the  Ladhkis  avoid  to  eat  with  one  of 
the  other  pretence,  in  a  Mon  or  Beda  house.  But  they  easily  join  a  Gara. 
The  restriction  is  not  for  food  but  for  the  container  in  which  it  is  served. 
A  common  container  cannot  be  used  by  the  members  of  all  the  groups. 
They  have  to  be  served  in  separate  utensils.  Some  of  the  Ladakhis  have 
stated  that  they  can  eat  in  the  houses  of  Mon  and  Beda  if  the  food  served 
to  them  is  cooked  by  the  Ladakhis.  The  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  join  in  all 
the  feasts  arranged  by  the  Ladakhis.  On  such  occasions,  the  Mon  and 
Beda  either  bring  their  own  containers,  or  manage  otherwise.  Nor¬ 
mally,  a  Ladakhi  family  does  not  provide  them  containers.  The  Balti 
and  Argon  are  treated  at  per  with  the  Ladakhis.  A  Ladakhi  can  eat  in 
the  houses  of  Balti  and  Argon  and  vice  versa.  The  commensal  inter¬ 
action  is  more  frequent  between  Ladakhi  and  Argon  than  between  Ladakhi 
and  Balti.  The  rules  governing  eating  reflect  on  smoking  too.  The 
number  of  smokers  is,  however  less  in  Buddhist  society  of  Ladakhi.  Smo¬ 
king,  under  the  religious  cover,  is  regarded  as  a  vice.  A  Ladakhi  smoker 
does  not  circulate  the  same  cigarette  to  a  Gara,  Mon  or  Beda.  He  rather 
restricts  it  among  the  Ladakhis.  The  same  form  of  restriction  is  imposed 
in  the  matter  of  drinking  Chang  and  Gur  Gur.  The  Gara,  Mon  and 
Beda  can  share  a  drink  with  Ladakhi,  but  not  in  the  same  cup.  The 
application  of  rule  is  more  severe  for  Mon  and  Beda.  While  sharing  a 
drink  they  do  sit  together  but  with  their  respective  cups.  Same  is 
repeated  with  the  Argon  and  the  Balti.  The  Baltis  do  not  consume 
Chang.  But  some  of  the  Argons  do  take  it.  The  impositions  are,  thus, 
quite  akin  to  the  caste  society.  But  the  Ladakhis  are  not  that  right. 
Members  from  all  the  groups  make  use  of  the  common  drinking  water 
source.  Neither  anyone  is  deined  the  use  of  this  source,  nor  they  have 



different  springs  for  different  groups.  So  much  so  that  anybody  reaching 
the  spring  first  is  given  the  first  chance.  It  is  not  that  a  Ladakhi  gets 
priority  over  others. 

In  the  formation  of  Phasphun  (it  refers  to  a  group  of  families  whose 
members  help  each  other  in  the  event  of  a  birth  or  death)  the  social 
inequality  is  taken  into  account.  The  Ladakhis  will  have  a  Phasphun 
represented  by  their  families  alone.  A  Gara  can  never  join  a  Ladakhi 
as  his  Phasphun  member.  Even  if  there  is  only  one  family  of  Mon  in  the 
village  his  Phasphun  would  consist  of  the  families  of  Mons  belonging  to 
other  villages.  He  is  never  allowed  to  have  a  Ladakhi  or  Gara  or  Beda 

In  the  sphere  of  connubial  relations  the  custom  demands  of  each 
group  to  be  endogamous.  No  regular  marriage  can  be  contracted  bet¬ 
ween  the  members  of  two  different  groups.  It  is  exactly  akin  to  the 
characteristic  of  caste.  Coustomarily  the  marital  alliances  are  not  appre¬ 
ciated  outside  one’s  own  group.  But  at  the  same  time  some  couples  are 
found  representing  different  groups.  Such  unions  are  not  the  outcome 
of  regular  marriages.  Rather,  they  are  the  result  of  friendship  deve¬ 
loped  between  the  members  belonging  to  different  groups.  When  a 
boy  and  a  girl,  from  two  different  groups,  develop  friendship  they  decide 
to  live  together  as  husband  and  wife.  In  most  of  such  cases  the  girl  is 
from  a  socially  superior  group.  The  male  members  from  Ladakhi  group 
do  not  aspire  for  the  females  of  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  They  are  not 
even  easily  attracted  by  the  Argon  and  Balti  females.  The  Ladakhi 
females  have  been  taken,  as  wives,  by  the  Muslims,  though  not  through 
the  normal  marriage  procedures.  A  Ladakhi  female,  after  marrying 
a  Gara,  would  become  Gara  for  all  practical  pruposes.  Some  of  the 
Gara  informants  have  stated  that  their  marriage  celebrations  are  suppre¬ 
ssed  by  the  Ladakhis.  The  latter  do  not  appreciate  a  better  display  of 
dances  and  dresses  in  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  marriages.  The  idea  involved 
is  to  keep  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  at  a  lower  footing  than  that  of  the 
Ladakhis.  A  Gara  wearing  better  clothes  or  riding  a  better  horse  would 
upset  a  Ladakhi  who  would  comment  that  the  fellow  is  trying  to  forget 
his  traditional  position.  He  may,  at  times,  be  even  asked  to  live  like 
a  commoner.  The  Ladakhis  do  not  like  the  social  elevation  of  Gara, 
Mon  and  Beda.  At  times  their  coming  up  is  hindered.  For  instance 
when  Phiang,  a  Gara,  got  employment  in  Indian  Tibet  Border  Police, 
the  Goba  (a  Ladakhi  village  headman)  and  other  elderly  Ladakhis  of 
the  village  approached  the  authorities  to  cancel  his  appointment.  The 
argument,  put  forward,  was  that  with  his  appointment  nobody  would  be 
left  in  the  village  to  do  ironsmithy.  The  members  of  dominant  group 
feel  that  the  artisan  groups  should  continue  to  serve  them  as  before. 

Anyone  irrespective  of  his  group  affiliation,  can  express  sorrow  over 
the  death  of  a  person.  A  dead  body  is  cremated  by  the  Ladakhi  as  well 
as  by  the  Mon,  Gara  and  Beda.  The  Muslim  Bedas,  however,  bury  it.  The 
cremation  ground  is  not  common  for  all.  Usually  the  Phasphuns  share 



a  common  crematorium.  At  the  time  of  death,  families  from  all  the 
groups  utilize  the  services  of  Lamas.  The  latter  are  not  meant  for 
Ladakhis  alone.  But  then  the  social  position  again  counts  in  the  matter 
of  carrying  the  dead  body.  The  Ladakhis  do  not  help  carrying  the  dead 
body  of  a  person  belonging  to  any  group  lower  than  them.  Thus,  a  Bhoto 
would  never  carry  the  dead  body  of  a  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  According 
to  the  principle  followed,  the  dead  body  of  a  person  can  be  carried  to  the 
cremation  ground  only  by  the  men  of  the  dead  man’s  group,  or  by  those 
who  occupy  a  socially  lower  position  than  the  one  of  dead.  In  the  absence 
of  members  from  the  same  group  the  Ladakhi  may,  however,  help  to 
carry  the  dead  body  even  if  it  belongs  to  a  lower  social  group.  This  is 
however,  rare  and  unusual. 

The  entire  Buddhist  population,  including  La.dakhi,  Gara,  Mon, 
Beda  and  Tibetans,  have  access  to  Gompa.  All  can  worship  the  gods 
and  goddesses  housed  therein.  In  tune  with  the  Ladakhis,  the  Mon 
and  the  Beda  do  make  offerings  and  are  free  to  consult  Lamas  and  Kushok 
as  and  when  required.  The  Lamas  visit  their  houses  to  perform  worship. 
The  religious  protection  is  equally  shared.  With  all  this  the  religion 
has  again  denied  one  privilege,  enjoyed  by  the  Ladakhis,  to  the  socially 
inferior  groups  of  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  The  Ladakhis  and  others  meet 
differential  treatment  in  the  selection  of  Kushok  (head  of  monastery)  as 
well  as  in  the  formation  of  Lamas  (monks)  and  the  Chomos  (nuns).  The 
Ladakhi  children  can  become  Lamas  and  Chomos.  But  the  Mon,  Gara 
and  Beda,  of  the  same  village,  are  not  allowed  this  concession.  Kushok 
from  the  socially  inferior  group  has  never  been  heard  of.  Even  if  a  Mon 
is  willing  to  make  his  son  Lama  he  is  not  allowed  to  do  so.  In  spite  of 
their  sharing  a  common  Gompa  and  a  common  religious  faith,  the 
members  of  the  socially  inferior  groups  have  been  deprived  of  the  con¬ 
cession.  In  almost  every  house  there  is  a  worship  room  and  anyone,  from 
any  of  the  groups,  can  enter  into  it.  For  this  purpose  the  entry  into  the 
house  of  a  Ladakhi  is  not  blocked  for  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  That  a 
Ladakhi  alone  can  become  a  Lama  or  Chomo  is  itself  a  point  of 
superiority  for  him. 

Another  feature,  more  like  the  caste  characteristic,  is  that  the 
Ladakhi’s  social  superiority  is  also  explained  on  the  basis  of  occupation. 
The  Ladakhis’  who  are  basically  agriculturists  and  animal  husbandrymen, 
regard  blacksmithy  as  a  low  profession.  The  Garas,  who  are  black¬ 
smiths,  have  thus,  been  given  a  lower  social  status.  Likewise  those  who 
play  music  are  underrated.  Except  in  case  of  a  few  the  traditional 
professional  set-up  continues  to  be  intact.  Lately  some  artisan  families 
have  switched  on  to  agriculture  and  labour.  Many  of  them  now  work 
as  civilian  labourers  in  army  organisations.  This  kind  of  job  is  also  done 
by  the  Ladakhis.  But  even  under  new  set-up  a  Mon  plays  on  drum 
whenever  he  finds  time.  Likewise  the  Beda  acts  as  flute  player  and  Gara 
as  blacksmith.  The  Ladakhis  still  treat  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  as  serving 
class  who  serve  them  whenever  required..  On  certain  occasions  it  is 

LtHNIC  COMPOSITION  and  SOCIAL  stratification 


obiligatory  for  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  to  serve  the  Ladakhis — a  system 
more  akin  to  caste  Hindus.  For  the  service  rendered  they  get  the  pres¬ 
cribed  remuneration  in  cash  or  kind.  The  instance  of  professional 
change,  marked  in  recent  years,  has  neither  affected  the  social  positions 
of  various  groups  nor  their  role-system.  The  Ladakhis  are  of  the  opinion 
that  the  affiliation  with  a  particular  group  is  determined  by  birth  and 
not  by  his  change  of  occupation. 

Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  inferiority  is  again  reflected  in  the  celebration 
of  festive  occasions  at  village  or  inter-village  level.  Only  the  Ladakhis 
dominate  the  scene  in  respect  of  participation.  The  people  from  the 
socially  inferior  groups  do  come  but  chiefly  as  observers.  The  archery 
competition  is  quite  a  popular  festive  occasion.  Most  of  the  villagers 
gather  to  participate.  But  the  Mon,  Gara  and  Beda  are  not  permitted 
to  shoot  an  arrow.  Nobody  would  prefer  to  join  their  team.  The 
Argons  and  the  Baltis  are,  however,  allowed  to  shoot.  They  are  also 
allowed  to  share  all  jokes  and  fun.  In  certain  other  functions  if  at  all 
the  members  from  other  groups,  than  the  Ladakhis  are  allowed  to  par¬ 
ticipate  they  are  given  the  roles  rated  as  inferior  and  which  the  Ladakhis 
themselves  would,  not  be  keen  to  perform.  For  instance,  the  perfor¬ 
mance  of  music,  symbolised  with  inferiority,  is  always  assigned  to  the 
Mon  and  Beda.  Sitting  in  one  corner,  slightly  far  off  they  play  on  their 
instruments  as  and  when  required.  The  right  of  full  participation  is 
denied  even  to  the  Garas  who  are  rated  as  next  to  the  Bhoto.  In  sacred 
dramas  and  dances,  which  pave  way  to  cultural  transmission  and  provide 
entertainment,  only  the  Lamas  participate.  Indirectly,  this  is  again  the 
privilege  of  Ladakhis  because  it  is  only  they  who  can  become  the  Lamas. 
Where  sitting  arrangement  is  made  a  due  recognition  is  given  to  the  status 
of  the  group.  If  it  is  a  religious  function  the  Lamas  sit  first.  And  if 
it  is  secular  one  the  first  position  is  occupied  by  the  descendants  of  nobles 
the  Kahlons,  followed  by  Goba,  elderly  persons  from  Bhoto  group,  the 
Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  The  Baltis  and  the  Argons  sit  separately. 

In  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  form  integral  part 
of  village  community  they  are  not  given  any  position  in  leadership  hier¬ 
archy.  Their  say  in  matters  connected  to  socio-political  control  of  the 
village  is  minimum.  The  Ladakhis  provide  social  control  mechanism 
and  the  rest  adhere  to  the  same.  In  all  the  villages  the  leadership  continues 
to  be  in  the  hands  of  Ladakhis.  The  Goba  and  the  Members  (sectional 
heads)  are  the  agencies  controlling  life  in  the  village.  These  positions, 
filled  through  selection,  have  always  been  denied  to  Gara,  Mon  and 
Beda.  The  latter  being  in  minority,  are  not  in  a  position  to  assert  for 
any  position.  A  support  to  Ladakhi,  in  the  context  of  village  leadership, 
is  the  Gompa  with  which  the  village  is  attached.  The  Gompa  orga¬ 
nization,  especially  the  Kushok  and  Chag-zot  (the  treasurer)  have  a  say 
in  the  selection  of  Goba.  As  the  Gompa  hierarchy  is  always  represented 
by  the  Ladakhis,  they  prefer  to  have  a  Ladakhi  headman  of  the  village. 

Most  of  the  Ladakhis  consider  Argons  and  Baltis  as  equal  to  them 


Tfffe  LADAKHtt 

in  social  status.  The  latter’s  rating  as  equal  to  the  Ladakhis  is  accepted 
in  spite  of  their  professing  Islamic  faith.  Marriages  between  Ladakhi, 
Argon  and  Balti  are  traditionally  forbidden.  But  they  do  eat  in  each 
other’s  house  (exception  being  some  Baltis  who  do  not  eat  in  the  houses 
of  Ladakhis).  There  is  no  bar  to  their  entry  into  the  houses;  the  Argon 
and  the  Balti  can  even  enter  into  the  kitchen  of  a  Ladakhi.  The  Muslims, 
however,  avoid  their  entry  into  the  worship  room  and  the  Gompas  of 
Ladakhis.  In  functions  and  on  other  occasions  they  can  join.  But 
their  participation  in  Ladakhi  functions  is  not  much.  For  any  event  of 
social  control  at  village  level  they  normally  submit  to  the  leadership  of 
Ladakhis.  Because  of  their  belonging  to  a  different  religion,  the  Argon 
and.  the  Baltis  do  not  become  the  Lamas  and  the  Chomos.  Otherwise, 
in  normal  life  they  freel y  mix  with  each  other.  Many  of  the  Ladakhi 
girls  are  married  to  the  Muslim  men.  A  regular  marriage,  however,  is 
forbidden  with  the  Muslim.  When  a  Ladakhi  girl  and  Muslim  boy 
develop  friendship  they  decide  to  live  as  husband  and  wife.  In  most  of 
such  cases  the  girl  adopts  Islam.  Cases  have  also  been  reported  where  the 
boy,  after  such  union,  adopted  Buddhism.  Converts  of  this  kind  are 
treated  as  equal  to  the  Ladakhis  for  all  practical  purposes.  Even  such 
families  enjoy  superiority  over  the  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  As  an  example, 
a  Muslim  4X’  from  Spituk  village  married  a  Ladakhi  girl.  With  the 
efforts  of  Kushok  this  man  adopted  Buddhism.  All  his  sons  were  later 
on  married  to  Ladakhi  girls.  Their  participation  in  other  Buddhist 
ceremonies  is  like  any  other  Ladakhi.  With  Kushok’s  effort  the  man 
was  also  allotted  some  land  for  cultivation.  The  Baltis  maintain  their 
social  superiority  over  Argons.  A  few  of  the  Baltis  regard  their  social 
status  as  the  highest  in  the  village.  Thus,  the  Balti  family  of  Spituk  does 
not  believe  in  having  more  relationship  with  even  the  Bhotos  of  the  village. 
The  members  of  this  family  consider  the  Ladakhis  inferior  in  religion 
as  well  as  social  grading.  At  the  most  they  accept  dry  Sattu  from  the 
Ladakhis.  Anything  cooked  by  the  Ladakhis  is  not  acceptable  to  them. 
On  the  other  hand  the  Ladakhis  do  not  mind  eating  in  a  Balti  house. 

The  Ladakhis  do  not  seriously  cultivate  the  practice  of  social  boycot. 
For  their  being  considerate  and  tolerant  no  instance  of  permanent  social 
ostracism  is  reported.  There  are,  however,  other  forms  of  punishment. 
A  person,  on  violation  of  certain  societal  norms,  himself  feels  suffocated, 
and  volunrarily  withdraws  from  the  group.  There  are  some  who  tempo¬ 
rarily  curtail  their  interaction  with  such  a  person.  The  Ladakhis  are 
endogamous  and  as  soon  as  a  female  marries  outside  the  gruop,  her 
affiliation  to  the  group  is  ceased.  If  she,  for  instance,  makes  a  marital 
union  with  Gara  she  is  treated,  for  all  purposes,  as  a  member  of  Gara 
group.  Even  the  destiny  of  her  progeny  is  guided  by  the  rules  of  Gara 
ethnic  group.  But  even  with  all  this  her  relations  with  the  family  of 
orientation  are  not  totally  sealed.  She  can  visit  her  parents  though  the 
Ladakhis  treat  her  as  a  member  of  Gara  group.  The  Ladakhi  men,  in 
general,  do  not  accept  girls,  as  wives,  from  the  groups  socially  lower 



than  them.  But  if  someone  goes  in  for  such  a  union  he  is  tolerated  after 
the  observance  of  Chhomo  Gango  ceremony.  His  connection  with 
the  community  are  severed  so  long  as  the  ceremony  is  not  observed.  For 
some  time,  after  a  Ladakhi  man  marries  a  Gara,  Mon  or  Beda,  the  me  mbers 
of  his  own  group  express  resentment  and  do  not  like  to  mix  with  him. 
Dining,  drinking  and  smoking  are  avoided  till  his  union  with  the  girl  of 
lower  category  is  dissolved  or  regularised.  The  man,  violating  the  social 
norm,  is  required  to  visit  sacred  Ganges  and  take  bath  in  holy  water  for 
15-20  days.  For  this,  he  would  invariably  be  accompanied  by  a  Lama 
or  some  other  person  who  would  do  worship  for  him.  Then  he  declares 
for  dissolution  of  his  socially  illegal  union.  And  only  then  he  is  recog¬ 
nised  as  a  regular  Ladakhi.  In  Ladakhi  social  structure  a  person  from 
a  lower  group  cannot  be  admitted. 

The  Tibetan  refugees  who  are  Buddhists  and  have  lately  been  colonized 
some  nine  kilometres  away  from  Leh,  on  Leh-Dungti  road,  and  a  few 
families  living  near  Spituk  village,  are  not  taken  at  par  by  the  Ladakhis. 
The  social  inferiority  of  the  Tibetans  is  explained  on  two  counts.  Firstly, 
they  do  not  possess  land  as  the  Ladakhis  do.  Secondly,  the  Tibetans 
do  not  have  the  kind  of  houses  possessed  by  the  Ladakhis.  Their  hut¬ 
ments  are  of  a  very  poor  quality  in  comparison  to  those  of  the  Ladakhis. 
Considering  the  Tibetans  socially  low  the  Ladakhis  do  not  marry  them. 
However,  a  few  instances  where  the  Tibetan  girls  became  friendly  with 
Ladakhi  boys,  and  lately  settled  as  their  wives,  could  be  reported. 
Tibetans  are  not  invited  to  the  village  functions.  But  if  they  come  of  their 
own  they  are  not  asked  to  leave.  The  cattle  of  the  Tibetans  are  not 
allowed  to  graze  around  the  fields  owned  by  the  Ladakhis.  Though 
belonging  to  the  same  religious  faith  the  Tibetan  refugees  are  segregated. 

Change  and  continuity — An  interpretation 

Some  of  the  informants  from  lower  social  strata  do  not  now  seem 
to  be  relishing  their  traditional  status  quo  in  terms  of  social  inequality. 
Their  attitude  is  resentful  to  the  traditional  social  ranking.  The  argument, 
put  forward  by  them,  is  that  why  should  they  be  rated  low  by  the  Bhotos 
when  they  make  all  their  festive  occasions  colourful  and  successful  (by 
providing  music),  when  they  worship  the  same  gods  and  goddesses  and 
visit  a  common  monastery,  when  they  can  eat  with  them  and  participate 
in  most  of  the  functions  organised  by  the  village  community.  It  is 
further  argued  that  the  occupation  alone  cannot  be  the  sole  determinant 
of  their  inferiority.  That  way  there  are  Ladakhis  doing  carpentary, 
masonary  and  weaving,  but  their  social  status  has  remained  unaffected. 
A  Gara,  while  being  extra  assertive,  went  to  the  extent  of  telling  that  when 
Lord  Buddha  allows  them  to  worship  him,  why  the  living  human  beings 
differentiate  them.  Lord  Buddha,  whom  the  Ladakhis  consider  supreme, 
never  promoted  inequality,  ranking  and  discrimination.  Even  the 
Kushok,  while  preaching,  takes  Mon,  Beda  and  Gara  as  equal  to  the 




Ladakhis.  But  the  real  situation  prevalent  is  different  than  what  the 
ideals  speak  for.  In  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  role  of  Gara,  Mon  and 
Beda,  in  the  life  and  culture  of  Ladakhi  is  quite  significant,  they  continue 
to  meet  an  inferior  treatment.  On  many  occasions  the  members  from 
the  socially  inferior  groups  deplore  their  fate  and  feel  as  if  they  are  under 
supression,  being  in  minority.  At  the  same  time  they  expressed  their 
desire  of  being  at  par  with  the  Ladakhi.  With  all  Buddhistic  traits  in 
them  they  are  treated  unlike  the  Ladakhi  Buddhists.  This  proves  that 
their  adoption  of  Buddhism  has  not  helped  them  elevate  their  social 
position.  The  positional  change  could  not  be  through  as  the  dominated 
Ladakhis  deprived  the  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  of  certain  concessions,  even 
when  the  later  are  having  Buddhist  way  of  living.  Under  the  circums¬ 
tances  the  numerical  strength  and  personal  convenience  of  Ladakhis 
seems  to  have  had  an  edge  over  cultural  traits.  And  that  is  why  the 
Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  continue  to  be  rated  socially  low  even  after  their 
adoption  of  Buddhistic  traits. 

Like  the  Hindu  society  of  village  India  the  stratification  is  also  a 
feature  of  Ladakhi  Buddhists.  In  certain  aspects  the  order  of  ranking 
resembles  the  caste  system  of  village  community  of  plain  India.  But 
some  of  the  features,  typical  of  caste  society,  are  missing  in  the  village 
community  of  Ladakh.  For  instance  the  Ladakhi,  Gara  Mon  and  Beda 
visit  the  same  Gompa  and  join  in  worship.  There  is  no  bar  to  their 
dining  in  each  other’s  house.  Entry  into  each  other’s  house  is  again  not 
prohibited.  Feelings  of  pollution  and  untouchability  do  not  seem  to 
exist.  On  the  other  hand  certain  traits  resembling  caste  system  do  exist. 
Like  the  castes  all  social  groups  in  Ladakhi  villages  have  specific  names. 
Also,  they  have  occupational  specialisation  quite  in  tune  with  caste 
system.  Lately,  however  the  labour  and  other  employment  are  taken 
up  by  all  the  needy  ones  irrespective  of  their  group  affiliation.  Again, 
like  the  castes  the  Ladakhi,  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  are  arranged  in  a  social 
hierarchy  each  occupying  a  definite  rung  of  social  ladder.  Exactly  like 
the  caste  the  Ladakhi,  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  maintain  their  respective 
endogamy.  Under  normal  circumstances  the  various  groups  do  not 
permit  for  intermarrying.  There  is,  however,  no  recognition  of  clans 
among  the  Ladakhi,  Gara  Mon  and  Beda.  As  a  matter  of  fact  they  have 
no  clans.  Quite  similar  to  castes  these  groups  have  and  usually  culti¬ 
vate,  set  norms  of  behaviour.  And  the  latter  regulate  the  intra  and 
inter-group  relations  in  various  ways  of  life.  In  the  light  of  features  like 
specific  name  (given  to  each  group),  specific  occupation,  fixed  position 
in  social  hierarchy  and  endogamy,  as  applicable  to  Ladakhi,  Gara,  Mon 
and  Beda  it  can  be  inferred  that  they  pose  for  a  caste-like  society.  The 
trend  to  caste  traits  might  be  further  solidified  through  the  increasing 
contacts  with  members  of  the  caste  society.  While  discussing  on  this 
issue  some  informants  came  out  with  vague  awareness  of  caste  system. 
Some  of  them  even  responded  that  they  are  the  Hindus  and  the  Rajputs. 
Two  persons  reported  that  they  are  Brahmins.  The  latter  have  been 



to  plain  India  in  the  midst  of  caste  society.  With  the  increasing  possi¬ 
bilities  of  their  contacts  with  the  members  of  caste  society  the  Ladakhi 
Buddhist’s  vague  knowledge  of  caste  system  may  turn  into  caste  reality, 
widening  the  social  distance  between  Ladakhi,  Gara  Mon  and  Beda. 
Till  now  all  the  characteristics  of  caste  system  do  not  exist  among  the 
inhabitants  of  Ladakhi  villages.  Untouchability  and  some  other  caste 
prejudices  are  still  missing. 

It  may  simultaneously  be  mentioned  that  the  changing  conditions, 
especially  the  rise  in  economy  and  education,  have  not  helped  to  elevate 
the  social  position  of  a  person.  His  status  continues  to  be  recognised 
by  his  affiliation  to  a  specific  social  group.  A  Gara,  better  placed  from 
employment  point  of  view,  may  enjoy  a  higher  position  in  his  office,  or 
place  of  working.  But  in  the  eyes  of  village  community  he  is  no  more 
than  a  Gara  for  all  practical  purposes.  Under  such  a  situation  all  norms 
applicable  to  ordinary  Gara  are  also  necessarily  meant  for  him.  The 
Gara  of  Spituk  is  comparatively  richer  than  many  Bhotos  of  the  village. 
He  owns  a  big  and  spacious  house  like  the  well-off  Bhotos.  Still  he  is 
treated  like  any  other  Gara  of  Ladakh.  The  traditionally  defined  posi¬ 
tion  remains  unalterable  even  after  a  person  switches  on  to  a  new  pro¬ 
fession.  Some  of  the  Mons  and  Ladakhis  do  carpentry  but  it  has  not 
reflected  on  their  traditional  status. 

The  members  of  the  village  community  are  also  classified  on  the  basis 
of  economic  status  and  the  professions  followed.  Such  groupings  and 
division  cut  across  ethnic  boundaries.  One  particular  category  may  include 
members  from  different  ethnic  groups.  Such  divisions/classes  do  not  carry 
more  functional  importance  concerning  the  life  and  culture  of  the  village 
community.  They  point  more  to  the  nomenclatural  significance,  fixing 
people  with  certain  ways  under  specific  categories.  The  village  population 
is,  thus,  classed  into  the  following  divisions  : 

1 .  Tongpa 

2.  Lakshes 

3.  Chankan 

4.  Kuli 

5.  Sarkari  Lhesmi 

The  last  two  of  these  categories  have  rapidly  developed  during  the 
last  two  decades  only. 

Those  owning  houses,  especially  of  fairly  good  size,  and  cultivable 
land  are  associated  with  Tongpas.  They  largely  depend  upon  land 
produce.  Majority  of  the  Bhotos  are  classed  in  this  category.  But 
anybody  else,  meeting  the  above  requirements,  can  also  be  affiliated  to 
Tongpa  category.  In  fact,  the  Tongpas  are  economically  more  prosper¬ 
ous  than  non-Tongpas.  But  it  never  means  that  a  Gara  Tongpa  can  be 
rated  at  par  with  a  Ladakhi  Tongpa  in  social  position  and  day-to-day 

The  artisan  families  belong  to  the  Lakshes  class.  Broadly  the  group 



includes  carpenters,  masons,  ironsmiths,  weavers  and  musicians.  A 
person  engaged  in  one  of  these  occupations,  irrespective  of  his  ethnic 
group  affiliation,  is  termed  as  Lakshe.  The  technical  personal  them¬ 
selves  have  no  unity  or  organization  formally  or  informally  represented 
on  any  occasion.  Knowing  of  Lakshes  is,  however,  important  because 
any  of  them  may  be  needed  at  any  moment.  At  village  level  their  services 
are  taken  as  essential.  In  comparison  to  an  ordinary  person  a  craftsman, 
for  his  technical  skill,  has  a  better  position  in  the  village.  His  profe¬ 
ssional  efficiency  is  appreciated  though  his  social  position,  as  determined 
by  his  birth,  remains  unaltered. 

The  poorest  class  in  the  village  is  formed  of  the  Chankans.  The 
Chankans  are  beggars  and  landless  people.  They  are  not  in  possession 
of  any  technical  skill.  The  Chankans  hail  mostly  from  the  Beda  group. 
The  Bedas  who  do  not  give  musical  performance  act  as  beggars.  Nor¬ 
mally,  the  Chankans  are  not  sedentary.  When  they  find  that  their  require¬ 
ments  are  not  metwith  at  one  place  they  shift  to  the  next.  For  their 
livelihood  the  men  as  well  as  the  women  go  for  begging.  The  class  of 
Chankans  is  a  depressed  and  frustrated  lot.  If  you  give  them  food  they 
would  work  hard  for  you  for  the  whole  day. 

The  Kuli  class  is  of  recent  origin.  Inception  of  various  development 
and  other  construction  works  in  LadaJkh  required  lot  of  labour  force. 
The  civil  and  army  agencies  engage  labourers  from  the  local  population 
to  carry  on  their  works.  Members  from  all  the  ethnic  groups  are  welcome 
to  labour  jobs.  The  people  of  Ladakh  call  such  labourers  as  Kuli.  The 
labour  force  which  the  Defence  has  raised  is  very  well  organized  at 
village  level.  From  Spituk  alone  there  are  nearly  one  hundred  labourers 
representing  Ladakhi,  Gara,  Mon,  Beda  and  Haiti.  Some  families  have 
spared  more  than  one  Kuli.  The  Kulis  are  well  paid.  The  Goba  is 
responsible  for  the  made  labour  force,  and  a  Chomo  (nun)  for  the  female 
labour  force.  During  a  short  span  of  time  the  term  Kuli  has  gained 
popularity  and  it  does  represent  labour  force  at  village  level. 

Like  Kuli,  the  Sarkari  Lhesmi  is  again  not  a  traditional  class  and 
as  originated  in  later  years.  All  the  regulaily  employed  government 
servants,  may  they  be  in  civil  or  in  armed  forces,  come  under  this  category. 
The  members  of  this  group  are,  by  and  large,  educated  and  represent  the 
elite  section.  In  comparison  to  Kulis  the  Lhesmis  are  esteemed  high. 
In  addition  to  tradionally  fixed  persons  the  members  from  Lhesmi  group 
also,  at  times  represent  the  villagers  as  their  spokesmen.  The  Lhesmi 
membership  is  towards  increase  because  of  the  increasing  formal  educa¬ 
tion  and  employment  opportunities. 

Some  political  considerations  also  get  reflected  in  the  ranking  of 
various  groups  at  village  level.  The  connection  with  higher-up  positions 
counted  for  certain  social  formations.  The  position  differentiation, 
in  this  context,  is  apparent  in  the  intra  as  well  as  inter-group  situation. 
Broadly  speaking,  four  categories  are  distinctly  marked  in  the  village 



community.  These  are  Skutak,  Tonspon  or  Tongpa,  Ralpa  or  Phalpa 
and  Ustath  or  Riknan.  r 

The  Skutak,  in  the  old  hierarchy,  marked  the  nobles  like  Gyapo, 
Lonpo,  Kalhon  and  their  relations.  Now  that  the  Gyapo,  Lonpo  and 
Kalhon  are  no  longer  officially  recognised,  their  descendants  and  their 
relations  (connected  through  marriage  and  blood)  associate  themselves 
under  the  category  of  Skutak.  The  descendants  of  Kalhon  (though 
Kalhon  has  no  official  powers  now)  also  continue  to  call  themselves  as 
Kalhon.  In  the  village  the  Kalhon  families  are  known  to  everyone. 
They  are  economically  better  off  than  others,  and  are  given  a  higher 
position  in  social  hierarchy.  They  are,  in  most  of  the  cases,  the  biggest 
land  owners  of  the  village.  The  rest  of  the  villagers  show  great  regard 
to  them.  Another  characteristic  of  Skutak  is  that  its  members  are  all 
Buddhists.  Such  Buddhists  are  of  the  Ladakhi  group  and  not  the  Gara, 
Mon  or  Beda.  By  and  large  the  descendants  of  the  noble  families  are 
rich.  Even  those  who  have  lost  their  wealth  continue  to  enjoy  their 
social  position,  the  Rik.  In  the  past,  and  to  some  extent  even  today, 
the  Phalpa  and  Riknan  cultivate  fields  for  the  Skutak.  They  also  offer 
them  Khatak  (a  scarf  symbolising  honour)  on  the  occasion  of  Losar. 
In  return  they  are  obliged  with  Chang  and  food.- 

Tonspa  or  Tongpa  marks  the  group  of  village  headmen  and  their 
family  members.  Right  from  earlier  times  the  Gobas  have  been  acting  as 
the  chief  administrators  at  village  level.  Every  Goba  has  one  or  more 
assistants,  lately  termed  as  the  Members.  Their  position  is  also  taken 
as  supreme  in  their  respective  village  section.  Though  inferior  to  Goba, 
a  Member  is  also  associated  with  the  Tonspa  class.  There  is,  however, 
a  marked  difference  between  the  Skutak  and  the  Tonspa.  The  member¬ 
ship  in  the  former  is  almost  permanent  and  unchangeable,  while  in  case  of 
the  latter  the  members  keep  on  changing.  If  a  Goba  or  his  assistant 
cease  to  be  in  office,  their  affiliation  to  the  Tonspa  group  is  immediately 
broken.  The  replacements  are  then  recognised  as  the  members  of  Tonspa 
group.  Another  interesting  feature  is  that  a  man  and  his  family  members 
can  simultaneously  belong  to  Skutak  as  well  as  the  Tonspa  class.  In  most 
of  the  cases  the  people  from  Skutak  class  alone  have  the  privilege  of 
enjoying  the  status  of  a  Tonspa  class.  The  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  do  not 
enjoy  the  position  of  Goba.  In  practical  life,  it  is  difficult  to  explain 
Skutak  and  Tonspa  in  terms  of  superiority  of  one  over  the  other.  It  is 
only  in  certain  matters  that  the  headman,  in  person  and  not  his  other 
family  members,  has  more  say  than  an  ordinary  Skutak.  This  is  because 
he  is  formally  recognised  by  the  government  as  the  headman  of  the  village 

The  Bhotos  who  do  not  have  their  claim  of  belonging  to  Skutak  class 
are  included  in  the  category  of  Ralpa  or  Phalpa.  These  are  the  people 
whose  social  position  is  rated  as  slightly  lower  than  the  Skutak.  But  at  the 
same  time  they  are  Ladakhis.  A  Kalhon  family  would  not  prefer  to 
select  a  boy  for  marriage,  from  Ralpa  family.  Their  preference  would 



always  be  for  a  Skutak.  However,  if  it  becomes  impossible  to  find  a  boy 
in  Skutak  category,  they  may  go  in  for  one  belonging  to  Ralpa.  Accord¬ 
ing  to  the  local  scale,  the  Argons  and  the  Baltis  are  also  grouped,  along- 
with  the  Ladakhis,  in  the  Ralpa  category.  The  Kalhon  families  do  deny 
of  their  equality  with  the  Argons  and  the  Baltis.  The  Baltis,  most  of  the 
time,  resent  for  their  positional  association  with  Ralpa.  In  their  own 
assessment  they  consider  themselves  even  superior  to  Skutak.  The  real 
position  cannot  easily  be  determined  because  the  Balti  and  the  Ladakhi 
belong  to  two  different  religious  faiths  and  interact  only  marginally. 

Tonspon  class  is  more  founctional  because  the  he?<dman  and  his 
assistants  discharge  certain  functions  in  the  interest  of  village  community. 
Ralpa,  Skutak  and  Ustath,  in  their  identities  as  class,  largely  appear  to 
be  non-functional.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  class  classification  is  not  much 
of  practical  utility  and  significance.  Rather,  the  people  belonging  to 
lower  category  consider  it  a  stigma.  On  the  other  hand  the  Skutak  and 
Tonspon  feel  proud  of  the  same  as  it  shows  their  links  to  the  positions  of 
seniority  and  importance. 

The  1911  census  of  Jammu  and  Kashmir  has  also  explained  of  the 
divisions  then  existing  in  Buddhist  population.  Accordingly,  the  three 
major  divisions,  with  fifteen  subdivisions,  are  as  under  : 

1.  Rigzang  or  Tarachos  or  upper 

(a)  Gyalpo  (  Rajas) 

(b)  Kushak  (Chief  Lamas) 

(c)  Klon  (Wazirs) 

(d)  Konpo  (Managers  of  Raja’s  private  affairs) 

2.  Mangriks  or  Mughami  or  middle  class 

(a)  Lama  (Priest) 

(jb)  Unpo  (astrologers) 

(c)  Nangsu  (officers  in-charge  of  Raja’s  palaces) 

(d)  Larje  (Physicians) 

3.  Rignun  or  Kamin  or  lower  class 

(a)  Beda  (pipers) 

(b)  Mon  (drummers) 

(c)  Gara  (blacksmiths) 

{d)  Shinkhan  (carpenters) 

(e)  Lamkhun(  cobblers) 

(/)  Malakhwan  (dancing  girls  and  prostitutes) 

It  may,  however  be  mentioned  that  my  findings  in  the  study  of  four 
Buddhist  villages  are  not  in  full  agreement  with  certain  position  and  place¬ 
ment  in  the  above  classification.  The  position  of  a  Lama,  associated  with 
Thakshos,  or  assessed  at  the  level  of  common  gentry  is  unheard  of.  All  the 
Buddhists  consider  the  religious  positions,  and  the  persons  associated  with 
them  as  higher  than  any  other  Ladakhi.  Then  Unpo  and  Lharje  or  Amchi 
is  a  class  of  specialists  in  the  professions  of  astrology  and  medicine  respec- 



tively.  Any  Buddhist  can  have  training  and  become  Lharje.  But  at  the 
same  time  every  Buddhist  is  not  equal  in  social  position.  A  Lharje,  coming 
from  an  inferior  group,  cannot  be  rated  with  Lama  who  is  always  a 
Ladakhi  and  none  else.  Actually  the  Shinkhan  and  Lamkhun  are  not 
very  specialized  classes  to  be  distinguished,  and  associated  with  Gara, 
Mon  and  Beda.  For  instance,  lot  of  Ladakhis  work  as  carpenters  but 
never  equated  with  Mon,  Beda  or  Gara.  They  rather  continue  to  belong 
to  Ladakhi  group  and  are  always  treated  as  higher  to  Mon,  Beda  and  Gara. 
The  existence  of  dancing  girls  could  not  come  to  my  notice.  In  Kuyul 
I  came  across  two  families  from  where  two  young  unmarried  girls  had  gone 
to  stay  in  Leh  where  they  earn  through  Chang-selling.  It  is  further  belie¬ 
ved  that  a  large  number  of  the  Chang-sellers,  in  Leh,  do  indulge  in  immoral 
traffic.  But  when  these  girls  return  back  to  Kuyul  they  would  not  be 
treated  at  par  with  Mon  and  Beda.  Birth  is  a  stronger  determinant  of 
group  affiliation  than  the  occupation. 


Faijiily  Lineage  and  Phasphun 

Among  Ladakhis  there  is  a  wide  range  of  variation  in  the  nature 
and  pattern  of  family.  All  the  inmates  of  a  house  sharing  economic 
responsibilities  and  related  through  kinship  have  been  considered  as  a 
family.  It  may  be  mentioned  thad  apart  from  family  the  individual 
members  are  also,  at  times,  referred  as  Nang-Chang — a  term  which 
corresponds  to  household  as  well  as  the  family.  There  exist  Nang-Chang 
composed  of  only  husband  and  wife.  Then  there  are  nuclear  and  extended 
families.  The  later  exist  in  vrious  forms.  Some  of  the  Nang-Changs 
do  not  fit  in  the  sociologically  defined  categories  of  family.  They  simply 
mark  the  nature  of  composition  of  the  households.  The  nature  and 
pattern  of  Ladakhi  Nang-Chang  are  represented  in  the  following  cate¬ 

1.  Nuclear 

2.  Extended  (three  generational  or  more;  it  also  include  polyand- 
rous  and  polygynous  families) 

3.  Joint 

4.  Extended  joint 

5.  Husband  and  wife  (without  children) 

6.  A  widow  staying  alone 

7.  A  deserted  or  divorced  person  living  alone 

8.  A  widower  living  alone 

9.  A  wife  and  her  two  husbands 

10.  Husband,  wife,  daughter  and  her  resident  husband 

11.  Husband,  wife,  daughter  and  her  resident  husband  and  their 

12.  Father,  two  daughters  and  their  two  resident  husbands  and 

13.  Husband,  wife  and  adopted  son 

14.  Husband,  wife  and  adopted  daughter 

15.  Husband,  wife  adopted  son  and  his  wife  and  children 

16.  Husband,  wife  adopted  daughter  and  her  husband  and  children 

17.  Husband,  wife  children,  including  the  deserted  or  divorced 

18.  Husband,  wife  and  her  unmarried  sister  staying  together. 

From  the  above  pattern  of  Nang-Chang,  it  has  been  made  clear 



that  the  members  belonging  to  different  Gyuts  (a  term  corresponding 
to  lineage)  do  stay  together  and  make  the  constituent  units  of  this  social 
group.  At  times  the  extensions  are  quite  wide.  Different  kinds  of 
relatives  are  accommodated  and  they  partly  merge  their  respective  identity 
into  Nang-Chang.  The  least  inhibitions  in  the  relationships  of  various 
categories  of  people  provide  sufficient  scope  for  mutual  tolerance  and 
living  at  a  common  place.  The  living  of  a  single  unit  alone  is,  usually, 
the  outcome  of  an  abnormal  circumstance.  Likewise,  the  extension 
to  the  extent  of  accommodating  one’s  daughter’s  husband  in  the  family 
is  not  always  the  characteristic  of  normal  living  pattern.  Similar  is  the 
case  where  the  persons  have  been  adopted.  Certain  special  forms  of 
Nang-Chang  are,  in  fact,  the  creation  of  unique  socio-economic  nece¬ 
ssities,  compulsion  and  other  societal  demands.  In  normal  course,  the 
forms  of  Nang-Chang  keep  within  the  well  defined  and  commonly  accepted 
categories  such  as  nuclear,  joint,  extended  and  extended  joint.  The 
following  table  speaks  of  Ladakhi  family  pattern. 

Table  showing  the  pattern  of  family 



Nature  of 

Total  number 
of  families 

Percentage  of 
the  total 














Extended  Joint 







Predominantly,  the  families  are  of  extended,  kind  followed,  in  order, 
by  the  nuclear  ones.  Nearly  14.00  %  of  the  families  belong  to  the  category 
‘others’  which  are  to  be  explained  in  their  respective  forms. 

It  may  here  be  mentioned  that  the  forms  of  Nang-Chang,  already 
mentioned,  are  not  the  only  and  exclusive  and  rigid  categories.  They 
may  change  with  time  and  situation.  The  compositional  change,  from 
the  point  of  view  of  number  of  people  in  the  group,  is  frequently  marked. 
The  factors  governing  this  kind  of  change  include  birth,  marriage,  death, 
adoption,  religious  dedication,  separation,  social  conflicts  and  compul¬ 
sions,  economic  requirement  and  social  obligation.  Over  the  years, 
there  has  occurred  a  definite  change  in  certain  compositional  aspects 
of  Nang-Chang.  Such  a  change  is  the  outcome  of  discontinuance  of 
a  social  practice  involving  sexual  liberty.  In  the  traditional  Ladakhi 
society  there  has,  till  recently,  been  the  practice  of  keeping  an  additional 




husband.  This  husband  used  to  be  in  addition  to  the  husband,  or  hus¬ 
bands,  recognised  through  marriage.  In  fact,  the  additional  husband, 
not  procured  through  marriage,  was  admitted  in  the  Nang-Chang  at 
the  sweet  will  of  the  wife  concerned.  In  this  capacity,  the  man  was 
known  as  Phorsak.  The  Phorsak  was  granted  concession  to  enjoy  sex 
with  the  woman  at  par  with  the  real  husband,  recognised  through  marriage. 
A  Phorsak  was  mostly  rated  at  equal  level.  In  some  cases  the  position 
of  Phorsak  was  even  treated  higher.  He  was  brought  in  the  family  when 
the  lady  of  the  house  felt  the  need  of  additional  man  for  doing  agriculture 
and  other  works.  In  the  study  of  Nang-Chang  in  four  villages,  no 
Phorsak  could  be  reported.  The  informants  reported  that  the  practice 
was  abandoned  long  back.  On  the  whole  the  number  of  Nang-Chang 
is  towards  increase,  and  so  is  their  size.  Average  number  of  persons  per 
Nang-Chang  is  now  6.02.  In  1847,  Cunningham  found  that  this  average 
was  4.147.  He,  however,  admitted  that  as  a  very  considerable  number 
of  people  were  absent  from  their  homes,  the  true  rate  per  house  could 
not  have  been  less  than  five  persons. 

Families  are  either  patrilocal  or  matrilocal.  From  marriage  pers¬ 
pective,  the  family  can  be  classified  into  three  categories  namely  mono¬ 
gamous,  polygynous  and  polyandrous.  There  is  preponderance  of 
monogamous  families,  followed,  in  order,  by  polyandrous  and  polygynous 
ones.  There  are  only  three  joint  families  in  true  sense  of  the  term.  But 
some  of  the  characteristics  of  joint  family  do  mark  even  the  polyandrous 
families.  For  instance,  the  members  of  a  polyandrous  family  have  a 
common  residence  and  jointly  contribute  to  house  economy.  Of  course 
the  family  property  is  not  equally  shared. 

In  the  past  the  Bhotos  practised  male  primogeniture,  and  hence 
the  entire  property  of  the  family  was  inherited  only  by  the  eldest  son. 
The  rest  of  the  brothers  did  not  get  anything  out  of  it.  All  the  brothers 
depended  on  the  eldest  one.  In  the  absence  of  adequate  means  of  support, 
they  even  could  not  afford  to  have  individual  wife.  They  shared  the 
wife  of  the  eldest  brother.  Therefore,  the  succession  and  inheritance 
of  position  and  property  by  one  individual  helped  to  promote  polyandrous 
marriages.  Of  course,  there  have  been  other  reasons  too.  At  the  same 
time  the  system  did  help  the  family  members  remain  united.  It  largely 
happened  to  be  the  economic  compulsion  that  kept  the  family  members 
integrated.  But  the  social  factor  also  had  its  own  contribution  in  the 
matter.  The  eldest  brother  in  the  family,  after  the  death  of  the  parents, 
enjoyed  all  respect,  command  and  authority.  Lately,  however,  there  has 
been  a  change  in  the  authority  and  position  of  the  eldest  son.  He  is  no 
longer  the  sole  repository  of  family  property  and.  status.  Under  the 
new  rules,  the  family  property  can  be  equally  inherited  by  all  the  siblings. 
Since  the  introduction  of  equal  share  in  family  property  the  system  of 
polyandry  got  adversely  affected.  The  frequency  of  polyandrous  unions 
got  reduced  because  under  the  new  provision  every  brother  can  econo¬ 
mically  afford  to  maintain  an  individual  wife.  With  the  new  oppor- 



tunities,  of  labour  job  and  employment,  there  is  growing  economic 
independence.  Under  the  circumstances  it  is  increasingly  felt  that  one 
can  afford  to  maintain  independent  family  of  ones  own.  It  has  given 
a  set-back  to  polyandrous  families.  The  number  of  polyandrous  families 
also  declined  because  of  the  legislation  against  polyandrous  marriages 
and  because  of  the  criticism  of  the  custom  by  the  outsiders.  In  a  family, 
having  daughter  but  no  son,  the  property  is  inherited  by  the  daughter. 
She,  in  fact,  continues  to  live  in  her  parental  house  even  after  her  marriage. 
The  husband  is  made  to  stay  with  her  only.  This  kind  of  arrangement 
is  done  only  when  the  couple  fail  to  adopt  a  male  child.  The  Ladakhi 
families  are  predominantly  patrilineal. 

The  institutions  of  family  and  marriage  are  intimately  connected, 
so  much  so  that  the  structure  of  a  family  is  partly  regulated  by  marriage. 
For  instance,  a  nuclear  family,  consisting  of  parents  and  unmarried 
children,  does  take  new  shape  after  the  sons  get  married.  The  wife  or 
the  wives  are  the  addition  which  further  expands  when  the  children  are 
born  out  of  such  unions.  But  after  this  stage  there  is  sudden  disruption 
in  the  family  structure.  With  the  incoming  of  grand  children,  the 
grand-parents,  alongwith  their  unmarried  daughter,  if  any,  leave  the 
family  and  start  living  in  a  separate  house.  This  separation  is  not  forced 
and  is  rather  voluntary.  Most  of  the  parents,  as  part  of  custom,  keep 
up  the  practice.  Such  a  separation  normally  materialises  when  parents 
get  satisfied  with  the  maturity  and  ability  of  the  son  to  shoulder  all  res¬ 
ponsibilities.  Of  course  they  render  all  assistance,  whenever  needed. 
Sexual  privacy  from  parents  is  no  criterion  for  such  a  separation.  As 
part  of  tradition,  the  parents  no  longer  like  to  remain  burden  on  the 
son,  who  has  then  to  look  after  his  own  wife  and  children.  The  separation 
is  also  enthused  by  the  hard  external  ecological  conditions  under  which 
dependence  on  others  is  not  relished.  The  conditions  demand  that 
everyone  must  work  hard  to  make  the  living.  In  this  respect  the  kinship 
obligations  are  not  very  potent.  Things  are  done  and  managed  volun¬ 
tarily.  There  do  not  exist  more  of  expectations  from  others.  Further, 
the  separation  of  family  as  Khaon  (A  Nang-Chang  formed  by  the  separated 
parents)  does  help  to  avoid  unpleasentness  between  the  mother-in-law  and 
the  daughter-in-law.  When  they  stay  away  from  each  other  chances 
of  conflict  and  quarrel  are  minimised.  The  separation  also  proposes 
for  sparing  part  of  the  family  property  to  the  unmarried  girl  or  the  boy 
in  family.  The  provisions  of  Khaon  and  Khangchen  (Khangchen  is 
the  ancestral  house)  help  to  avoid  parental  interference  in  the  business 
of  the  young  couple.  The  separation  grants  full  liberty  of  behaviour  and 
decision-making.  In  fact  the  formation  of  a  Khaon  is  relic  of  the  old 
custom  when  polyandry  was  most  widely  prevalent.  With  polyandry, 
primogeniture  was  the  rule,  and  the  brothers  who  did  not  join  the 
polyandrous  wedlock  were  left  without  any  property  to  fall  back  upon 
Khaon  system  then  provided  relief.  A  part  of  the  property,  initially 
given  to  parents,  who  stayed  in  Khaon,  was  ultimately  inherited  by  the 



unmarried  son  who  joined  the  parents  in  Khaon.  However,  the  major 
part  of  property  was,  and  still  is  retained  in  Khangchen.  Now  that  the 
polyandrous  unions  are  towards  decline,  the  Khaon  system  has  also  been 
affected  correspondingly. 

Out  of  Khangchen  and  Khaon  the  former  is  still  considered  better. 
In  fact  Khangchen  retains  a  major  part  of  the  ancestral  property.  At 
the  same  time  the  members  need  not  shift.  Secondly,  for  all  practical 
purposes  more  recognition  is  accorded  to  Khangchen.  Even  the  Gompa 
grants  more  recognition  to  Khangchen  than  Khaon.  Once  a  year,  after 
the  harvesting  is  over,  every  family  gives  a  part  of  the  agriculture  produce 
to  Gompa.  The  families  in  better  position  donate  a  head-load  each. 
But  no  quantity  is  fixed  for  Khaon;  they  may  or  may  not  give  it.  But 
from  Khangchen  the  monastic  organization  must  get  the  specific  quantity. 
Then  Chhangjot  (treasurer)  of  Gompa  has  more  connection  with 
chen  than  Khaon.  The  Khangchen  people  use  him  as  decision-maker 
when  all  other  avenues  fail.  His  decision  comes  only  next  to  Kushok. 
Actually  the  monastic  right  on  Khangchen  is  more  becuase  it  has  a  worship 
room  which  is  catered  by  the  Lamas  of  monastery.  The  Chhotkang 
(worship  room)  remains  common  for  Khaon  and  Khangchen,  and  their 
members  make  use  of  it  as  and  when  desired.  The  separated  members 
continue  to  be  labelled  with  the  name  of  Khangchen.  At  the  same  time, 
most  of  the  important  ceremonies  are  held  only  in  Khangchen  and  not 
in  Khaon.  Because  of  the  extra  privileges  given  to  Khangchen  people, 
there  is  always  maintained  a  close  relationship  between  Khaon  and 
Khangchen.  When  there  is  a  death  in  Khaon,  the  dead  body  is  brought 
to  Khangchen  and  kept  there  for  a  couple  of  days  till  all  the  rites  and 
rituals,  connected  to  this  incident  are  over.  The  Khangchen  people 
make  substantial  contribution  towards  the  expenses  incurred  on  the 
occasion.  The  keeping  of  dead  in  Khangchen  is  an  indication  that 
primarily  the  person  is  indentified  with  Khangchen  Khaon  is  only  his 
secondary  abode.  Simultaneously,  Khaon  is  not  considered  an  appro¬ 
priate  place  for  the  performance  of  major  religious  rites  and  ceremonies. 
The  Khaons,  in  most  of  the  cases,  do  not  have  worship  room  and  hence 
these  people  have  to  depend  on  Khangchen.  In  major  quarrels,  either 
in  Khangchen  or  Khaon  the  members  seek  mutual  help,  cooperation 
and  guidance.  To  face  a  third  party,,  in  quarrel,  the  Khangchen  and 
Khaon  join  hands.  In  economic  life  the  cooperation  is  maintained  to 
a  great  deal.  Economic  position  of  Khaon  is  normally  not  at  par  with 
Khangchen,  and  to  meet  many  of  their  requirements  they  bank  upon 
Khangchen.  Storing,  the  property  allotted  to  Khaon,  is  not  sufficient 
to  meet  all  their  demands.  On  the  other  hand  if  Khangchen  people 
need  something,  which  can  be  procured  by  Khaon  people,  it  is  readily 
managed  for.  Most  of  the  articles  are  exchanged,  without  making  any 
payment  for  them. 

Certain  Khaons,  especially  after  the  death  of  parents,  are  repre¬ 
sented  only  by  the  unmarried  girl  and/or  boy.  A  Khaon  of  Thiksay  could 



be  represented  by  two  unmarried  girls  only.  And  they  stayed  separately 
even  when  their  parents  were  alive.  On  probing  into  the  matter,  it  was 
revealed  that  they  stay  in  Khaon  to  watch  the  agriculture  fields  around. 
A  Khaon  assumes  yet  another  form.  Out  of  a  joint  family  if  one  brother, 
alongwith  his  wife  and  children  establishes  a  new  home,  the  latter  is 
also  termed  Khaon.  These  instances  prove  that  Khaon  is  not  necessarily 
an  abode  of  the  aged  parents  alone,  and  may  be  formed  of  other  members. 
Thus,  any  structure,  other  than  the  one  represented  by  ancestral  and 
parental  residence,  occupied  by  any  person,  separated  from  the  main 
family,  is  referred  as  Khaon.  It  may,  however,  be  mentioned  that  the 
Khaons  mostly  include  the  aged  parents,  staying  away  from  their  married 

Khaon  pattern  of  Nang-Chang  does  encourage  Magpa  practice. 
Magpa  is  the  husband  who  joins  his  wife’s  family  of  orientation  and 
their  residence.  Such  a  matrilocal  arrangement  gets  a  substantial  support 
from  Khaon.  An  unmarried  girl  from  Khaon  inherits,  in  most  of  the 
cases,  the  property  after  the  death  of  her  parents.  To  manage  and  look 
after  her  property,  she  is  helped  by  her  husband  who  joins  after  her 
marriage.  In  most  of  the  cases  the  Khangchen  property  is  managed 
and  taken  care  of  by  the  sons,  more  so  after  the  separation  of  the  parents. 
On  the  other  hand  the  Magpa  takes  over  as  the  chief  care-taker  of  Khaon 
and  its  possessions.  Magpa  is  not  a  big  beneficiary  as  the  Khaon  property 
is  meagre.  The  major  part  of  property  remains  attached  with  Khangchen. 
But  still  the  Ladakhis  do  not  mind  becoming  Magpa  in  Khaon.  Magpa 
practice  is  resorted  to  for  Khangchen,  if  needed. 

The  family  composition  changes  when  someone  is  adopted.  When 
a  couple  is  not  blessed  with  an  issue,  they  prefer  to  adopt  a  male  relative. 
On  his  non-availability  a  female  can  be  adopted.  In  latter  case  the 
husband  of  the  female  would  also  join.  Children  of  husband’s  brother 
or  wife’s  brother  are  preferred  for  adoption.  Adoption  leads  to  fusion 
in  family,  while  Khaon  practice  does  cause  fission. 

The  issueless  couple  are  taken  as  unfortunate,  and  people  feel  pity 
on  them.  To  avoid  the  unfortunate  state  alternatives  have  been  provided 
to  help  the  issueless  couple  produce  children.  The  helpers,  for  the  pur¬ 
pose,  are  Kushok,  Lama  and  Chanspa  (a  religious  person).  It  is  believed 
that  these  agencies,  with  the  help  of  their  religious  power,  can  get  a  woman 
conceived.  But  if  such  efforts  too  prove  useless  the  Kushok  gives  a 
final  verdict  telling  that  the  couple  would  never  be  able  to  have  progeny. 
As  an  alternative  the  barren  couple  is  permitted  to  adopt  someone  from 
the  same  ethnic  group.  Contracting  polygynous  union,  in  order  to 
beget  children,  is  not  appreciated.  Still  some  cases  of  polygyny  are 
reported.  As  social  sanction  a  couple  can  adopt  a  male  or  a  female  child 
or  adult.  When  a  girl  is  adopted,  she  continues  to  stay  with  the  issueless 
couple  even  after  her  marriage.  The  husband  joins  her  as  Magpa.  Such 
matrilocal  arrangement  is  again  socially  approved.  Even  otherwise, 
the  matrilocal  form  of  residence  is  quite  popular.  In  spite  of  all  this 



the  preference  for  male  adoption  is  always  expressed.  The  person  to 
be  adopted  is  never  beyond  one’s  kinship  circle.  Among  others  who 
can  be  adopted,  beyond  preference,  include  maternal  uncle’s  son  or 
daughter,  wife’s  sister’s  son  or  daughter. 

There  are  no  special  ceremonies  marking  adoption.  Looking  to  the 
possibility  of  sparing  a  child/grownup  the  needy  ones  make  request  to 
the  parents  of  the  prospective  candidate.  Some  promise  to  meet  the 
request,  and  the  person  is  spared  as  and  when  desired.  People  prefer 
to  adopt  around  the  age  of  five  to  six  years.  The  child  just  walks  in  a 
new  home.  His/Her  parents  are  offered  Chang.  The  adopted  one  is 
reared,  educated  and  married  by  those  who  adopted.  The  adopted  one 
had  no  claim  on  the  property  of  his  real  parents.  But  the  entire  property 
of  the  adopting  couple  goes  to  him/her. 

The  urgency  for  adoption  has  a  specific  background.  Under  the 
difficult  ecological  conditions  even  the  old  Ladakhi s,  especially  those 
of  Khaon,  have  to  struggle  hard  to  earn  their  living.  But  even  then  they 
need  someone  who  can  render  help  as  and  when  needed  in  the  very  old 
age.  It  is  always  desired  that  someone  should  be  there  to  fall  back  upon, 
specially  under  the  conditions  when  a  couple  becomes  almost  invalid. 
Such  a  necessity  makes  an  issueless  couple  adopt  someone  who  may 
provide  them  support.  Other  reasons  are  no  less  important.  Normally 
the  Ladakhis  express  themselves  as  liberal,  frank  and  democratic  people. 
But  at  the  same  time  they  are  very  possessive  of  a  few  things.  Their 
attachment  with  the  land  is  very  deep  and  none  would  like  to  transfer 
the  land  to  anyone  whom  they  do  not  consider  as  their  own.  In  order 
that  the  land,  and  even  the  other  property,  may  go  to  the  person  of  one’s 
own  choise,  the  adoption  is  resorted  to.  Another  important  desire  of 
a  Ladakhi  is  that  his  chain  of  descent  should  not  only  remain  intact,  but 
also  continue  through  procreation.  It  is  further  believed  that  their 
name  would  continue  only  if  the  progeny  is  there.  The  house  name 
indentity  does  completely  perish  in  the  absence  of  an  issue.  Sentimen¬ 
tally  the  situation  is  intolerable  to  a  Ladakhi.  Looking  to  these  require¬ 
ments,  and  when  the  chances  of  procreation  seem  bleak  the  Ladakhi 
couple  decide  to  adopt  someone.  The  act  ensures  continuity  of  house 
name.  The  adopted  one,  in  no  way,  is  considered  different  from  the 
real  members  of  the  family. 

The  increasing  trend  is  towards  nuclear  families.  Such  a  change  in 
family  pattern  is  largely  because  of  the  change  in  land  tenure  system. 
The  shift  from  male  primogeniture  to  equigeniture  led  to  the  individual 
ownership.  This  ensured  economic  cover  not  only  to  the  individual 
but  also  to  his  elementary  family. 

Family  identification 

Ladakhis  have  no  clan  system,  nor  recognise  any  clan  name.  Like¬ 
wise,  the  lineages  are  not  named.  Even  the  surnames  are  non-existent. 



Therefore  indentifying  families  in  respect  of  clan  or  lineage  name  is  not 
possible.  Under  the  circumstances  the  families  are  differentiated  and 
identified  with  the  help  of  either  titles  or  the  house  names. 

The  identification  of  families  in  the  village  is  done  through  an  iteres- 
ting  methc'd.  The  families  are  categorised  into  two  groups  namely,  the 
Kaga  and  Aacho.  These  are  kind  of  titles  attached  to  the  families.  The 
descendants  from  Kalhons  as  well  as  other  nobles  are  classed  as  Kaga. 
Kaga,  as  a  title  carries  more  value  than  the  Aacho.  These  two  cate¬ 
gories  are  not  applicable  to  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda.  Majority  of  the 
Ladakhis  belong  to  Aacho  group.  Next  to  the  practice  of  attaching  titles 
with  the  families  is  the  system  of  allotment  of  name  to  every  house. 
These  names  are  different  for  different  houses.  While  mentioning  for 
a  particular  family,  its  title  as  well  as  the  house  name  are  put  together. 
For  instance  in  Spituk,  Nurbu’s  family  has  the  title  of  Kaga  and.  his  house 
name  is  Togoche.  Now  whenever  people  refer  to  Nurbu’s  family,  they 
say  Togoche  Kaga.  Sometimes  the  name  of  the  head  of  the  family  is 
also  prefixed  to  house  name  to  make  it  more  clear.  Such  identification 
symbols  have  continued  for  centuries  because  in  a  family  the  sons  inherit 
the  same  title.  The  house  names  may  change  only  in  rare  circumstances, 
especially  when  sons  build  their  separate  houses  and  are  keen  to  have 
new  names  from  the  Lama.  But  as  a  procedure  the  eldest  brother  would 
always  keep  father’s  house  name.  For  generations,  the  descendants 
from  specific  families  continue  to  have  the  same  name.  When  a  man 
permanently  shifts  to  live  in  his  wife’s  house,  he  gets  governed  by  the 
house  name  of  the  latter.  Family  name  corresponds  to  the  house  name. 
Any  one  joining  a  new  house  would  inherit  the  name  of  the  same. 

The  house  names,  suggested  by  the  Lamas  and  the  Kushok,  are 
normally  found  having  association  with  the  ecological  setting  around, 
say  a  stream,  hillock,  steep,  plain  etc.  For  instance,  a  house  near  a  stream 
would  be  named  as  Tokpopa  (Tok  refers  to  stream  and  popa  to  those 
who  live  near  it).  A  house  near  the  hill  would  be  named,  as  Takshanpa. 
The  house  names  are  also  given  on  the  basis  of  association  with  animals 
like  tiger,  rabbit,  goat,  sheep  etc.  A  Khangchen  name  continues  un¬ 
changed.  for  generations.  Normally  the  Khaons  are  not  given  new  names, 
and  they  continue  to  be  referred  as  Khaon  of  so  and  so,  that  is,  its  Khang- 
chen’s  name.  In  case  the  Khaon  is  far  off  from  Khangchen,  the  new 
name  may  be  sought  for. 

In  fact  the  house  names  differentiate  the  families  and  their  respective 
members  for  various  purposes.  Such  names  have  been  incorporated  in 
village  accountant’s  (Patwari)  records  where  the  land  ownership  is  shown. 
Even  in  postal  correspondence,  the  house  names  are  always  incorporated 
as  part  of  address.  For  men  and  women,  only  a  few  names  are  popular, 
and  in  the  same  village  one  may  find  many  persons  of  the  same  name. 
For  exact  ind.entification  the  house  names  are  always  added.  As  the 
inheritance  of  house  names  continues,  no  confusion  marks  indentification 
of  persons  and  families. 



Intra-family  relations 

The  nature  of  the  intra-family  relations  provides  uniformity.  How¬ 
ever,  the  types  of  such  relations  vary  from  family  to  famiiy,  depending 
upon  its  form  and  composition.  In  some  cases  the  parents  stay  away 
from  their  sons  after  the  later’s  marriage  and  begetting  children.  In  a 
polyandrous  family  the  eldest  brother  enjoys  more  privileges.  In  a 
nuclear  family,  with  minor  children,  the  parents  take  all  decisions.  In 
vertically  extended  family,  the  elderly  parents  or  grand-parents  may 
hand  over  the  responsibilities  to  one  of  the  grown  up  sons,  if  he  is  consi¬ 
dered  fit  for  the  position.  But  then  the  opinion  of  the  aged  parents  is 
sought  while  taking  major  decisions.  In  spite  of  the  fact  that  most  of 
the  parents  stay  in  a  different  place,  after  the  marriage  of  their  sons,  the 
relationship  is  not  altogether  severed.  The  parent  can  seek  help  from  their 
sons.  Many  of  the  latter  even  cultivate  the  land  given  to  the  parents, 
and  hand  over  all  the  agriculture  produce  to  them.  Their  comfort  is 
bothered  for.  But  still  the  separated  parents  have  to  work  hard  for 
their  existence.  They  keep  on  working  even  in  the  old  age.  In  the 
matter  of  respect  as  well  as  consultation  the  grandfather,  if  alive, 
is  given  priority  over  others.  This  is  subject  to  his  being  in  position  to 
attend  to  things.  In  his  absence  it  comes  to  the  father.  For  various 
matters,  concerning  family,  the  mother  is  not  very  frequently  consulted. 
The  eldest  brother,  in  family,  also  enjoys  more  privilege  in  the  absence  of 
grandfather  and  father.  In  comparison  to  mother,  the  wife  is  said  to 
have  a  better  say.  It  is  likely  that  such  a  trait  originated  from  polyand¬ 
rous  system  where  wife’s  position  in  the  family  is  quite  sound.  Essen¬ 
tially  the  position  of  senior  male  members  is  higher  than  the  females. 
The  seniormost  male  member  is  taken  as  head  of  the  family  if  he  continues 
to  have  a  balanced  mind  and  dependable  memory.  In  certain  cases  the 
opinion  is  also  sought  from  father’s  brother,  if  any.  When  none  of  them 
is  available  the  matters  are  communicated  to  the  maternal  uncle.  He, 
then,  acts  as  the  chief  decision-maker.  The  family  members  express  as 
much  allegiance  and  loyalty  to  the  maternal  uncle  as  to  the  father  or 
grand-father.  The  decisions  are  respected  and  carried  out  as  suggested. 
Thus,  the  position  of  maternal  uncle  is  not  less  important. 

As  part  of  their  responsibility  the  parents  do  their  best  in  the  rearing 
of  children.  They  also  manage  for  their  marriage.  The  parents,  at  the 
same  time,  expect  their  children  to  be  hardworking.  Those  who  shirk 
hard  work  are  not  liked.  If  required  the  Ladakhi  even  threats  his  chil¬ 
dren.  The  latter  is  even  beaten  if  something  is  stolen  by  him.  Stealing 
is  taken  serious  note  of  as  it  goes  against  Buddhist  ethics.  The  relation¬ 
ship  of  siblings  with  the  parents  does  not  involve  avoidance.  Rather,  it 
is  of  an  easy  nature  and  is  devoid  of  tension.  Although  the  relation¬ 
ship  is  marked  by  ease  and  frankness,  the  norms  of  behaviour  are  well 
laid  down.  These  have  provision  for  certain  concessions  too.  The 
latter  do  not  adversely  reflect  on  their  day-to-day  pattern  of  interaction. 



The  parents  and  children  are  free  and  frank  with  one  another  and  can  eat 
and  drink  together.  Jokes  are  freely  cut  among  various  members  of 
family.  This  is  done  irrespective  of  age  and  sex.  The  inhibitions  and 
impositions  are  rare.  Even  after  the  marriage  a  son’s  freedom  is  not 
curtailed  in  any  way.  He,  alongwith  his  wife  and  children,  is  left  to 
live  independently.  The  parents  retire  from  the  main  house,  handing 
it  over  to  the  son  and  his  family  of  procreation.  It  has  further  been 
responded  that  the  children  take  more  liberty  with  mother  than  the 
father.  The  latter,  at  times,  gets  harsh.  The  mother  does  not  resort  to 
physical  beating  unless  she  is  cornered  to  do  so.  But  the  position  of 
parents,  as  that  of  respect  is  always  recognised  and  the  same  gets  reflected 
in  many  walks  of  life.  The  parental  right  over  the  children  is  widely 
accepted.  Whether  a  son  or  a  daughter  is  to  be  dedicated  (as  Lama  or 
Chomo)  to  monastery  is  to  be  decided  by  the  father  and  the  mother. 
No  child  even  dares  to  violate  their  decision.  The  children  are,  by 
and  large,  submissive  to  parents  without  any  fear  of  coercive  means. 
In  polyandrous  family  there  is  no  formal  procedure  of  detei  mining  pater¬ 
nity.  In  general  the  eldest  brother  in  a  polyandrous  union  is  referred  to  as 
Bada  Baap  (elder  father)  by  the  offsprings.  And  all  the  younger  brothers 
in  the  union  are  referred  to  as  Chhota  Baap  (younger  father).  Every 
child  adopts  the  same  procedure.  That  means  every  brother,  sharing 
a  common  wife,  is  equally  responsible  to  every  child.  Without  any 
segregation  they  derive  equal  affection  from  all  who  have  shared 
their  mother.  Actually  the  children  have  more  members  to  look  after 
them  in  a  polyandrous  family. 

The  brothers,  among  themselves,  maintain  cordial  and  helpful 
relations.  .  Even  when  they  stay  away  in  their  respective  nuclear  families, 
they  keep  on  helping  each  other  whenever  required.  Likewise  they 
help  their  sisters  even  when  the  latter  get  married  and  stay  at  different 
places.  The  siblings,  whether  male  of  female,  enjoy,  equal  freedom  of 
movement  and  speech.  In  their  behaviour  too,  they  are  equally  liberal. 
Equal  treatment  is  meted  out  to  the  son  and  the  daughter.  This  holds 
true  even  at  the  time  of  their  birth.  The  birth  ceremonies  are  more  or  less 
the  same  for  the  members  of  both  the  sexes. 

The  privileged  position  in  family  is  given  to  certain  members  on  the 
ground  of  their  dedication  to  religious  organization.  These  members 
are  the  Lama  and  the  Chomos.  For  their  being  more  religious  and  iear- 
ned,  they  are  kept  better  fed  and  clothed.  A  Lama,  in  the  early  formative 
stage,  continues  to  stay  in  his  family  of  orientation.  At  this  stage  he  is 
known  as  Ch?ng-Jung.  But  in  the  next  stages  he  shifts  to  one  of  the 
rooms  of  Gompa.  On  the  other  hand  a  Chomo,  in  most  of  the  cases, 
continues  to  throughout  stay  with  her  family  members.  She  does  not 
stay  in  Gompa,  except  in  rare  case.  But  the  Chomos  do  attend  to  all 
kinds  of  works  required  to  be  done  in  the  Gompa.  They  readily  respond 
to  the  call  of  monastery.  Because  the  Chomos  and  the  Chang-Jungs 
opt  to  devote  their  life  for  the  cause  of  religion,  which  provides  protection 




to  the  community,  their  position  is  always,  at  least  in  theory,  taken  as 
superior  than  other  members  of  the  family.  The  superiority  is  exhi¬ 
bited  in  the  division  of  labour  and  other  activities  related  to  family  life. 
Ideally,  the  Lama  and  the  Chomo  are  never  asked  to  do  any  hard  work. 
They  are  preferably  given  some  light  work.  The  senior  Lamas  and 
Chomos  are  never  asked  to  participate  in  the  agriculture  activities.  In 
order  that  the  religious  persons  may  keep  up  their  purity  and  sanctity 
they  do  not  indulge  in  any  activity  which  may  tarnish  their  image. 
Ploughing  for  a  Lama  is  forbidden.  At  the  same  time  the  religious 
persons  are  not  engaged  in  harvesting  the  crops.  Carrying  of  a  sickle 
by  the  Lama  and  the  Chomo  is  not  approved.  It  is  commonly  believed 
that  during  the  course  of  harvesting  lot  of  insects  and  ants  get  killed. 
Such  a  killing  is  considered  anti-virtuous,  and  hence  the  acts  are  for¬ 
bidden  for  Lamas  and  Chomos.  In  fact  they  are  against  being  offensive 
and  killing  of  living  things.  For  that  matter  the  religious  persons  are 
never  engaged  for  carrying  compost  from  the  pit  to  the  fields.  Broad¬ 
casting  of  compost  is  also  prohibited  for  them.  In  order  that  the  sacred 
persons  may  maintain  their  purity  they  avoid  participation  in  ceitain 
ceremonies  connected  with  birth,  death  and  marriage.  But  they  do 
perform  worship  required  on  all  such  occasions.  What  is  tabooed  is 
their  secular  participation.  Thus,  the  religious  persons  are  considered 
as  well  as  treated  as  superior  to  other  members  of  the  family.  The 
religious  persons  do  show  regards  to  the  parents  but  the  latter  do  not  press 
them,  as  they  do  in  case  of  other  family  members,  to  do  the  works  which 
are  not  meant  for  the  religious  class  as  a  whole.  It  may  further  be  men¬ 
tioned  that  a  Lama’s  position  is  considered  superior  to  that  of  a  Chomo. 
His  role,  in  religious  matters,  is  more  prominent.  A  Chomo  largely 
confines  to  the  house  while  a  Lama  keeps  busy  in  worship  at  various 
places.  Through  this  sacred  relationship  he  is  directly  in  touch  with 
the  village  community.  Beyond  family,  the  other  members  of  community 
also  have  a  soft  corner  for  the  religious  persons  and  treat  them  accordingly. 
Of  late  some  change  has  been  marked  at  the  level  of  work  underaken  by 
the  Chomos.  Some  Chomos  were  seen  working  as  labourers  on  the 
road  and  other  construction  sites.  One  of  the  senior  Chomos  from  Spituk 
is  even  the  head  of  women  labour  force  from  the  village.  The  increasing 
economic  pressure  and  the  attraction  for  labour  wage  have  made  the 
Chomos  go  in  for  such  a  hard  outdoor  work.  The  parents  do  not  object 
against  the  new  trend  as  it  adds  to  their  income.  Thus,  the  new  economic 
opportunities  have  started  affecting  the  traditional  attitude  of  the  people 
belonging  to  the  sacred  class. 

The  siblings,  irrespective  of  their  sex,  are  of  equal  importance  and 
meet,  more  or  less,  similar  kind  of  treatment  at  the  hands  of  parents. 
Among  themselves  they  interact  freely.  There  are  not  more  of  inhibitions 
governing  their  relationship.  When  the  custom  of  polyandry  was  widely 
prevalent  the  eldest  brother  enjoyed  the  most  privileged  position.  He 
happened  to  be  the  repository  of  entire  family  wealth.  The  rest  had 



to  look  to  him  for  alomost  each  and  everything.  Lately,  the  frequency 
of  polyandrous  unions  has  declined  but  the  hang-over  of  the  past  relation¬ 
ship  between  the  eldest  brother  and  the  rest  continues  to  exist  to  some 
extent.  In  polyandrous  families  the  position  of  the  eldest  brother  is 
still  more  important.  But  with  the  replacement  of  primogeniture  by 
the  system  of  equigeniture  the  position  of  the  eldest  brother  has  suffered 
a  jolt.  The  increasing  economic  independence,  more  so  under  the  new 
opportunities  of  earning,  has  already  started  shaking  the  dominance  of 
the  eldest  brother.  When  the  brothers  separate  and  have  independent 
establishment,  they  do  not  interdepend  much.  Thir  level  of  intimacy 
also  declines.  While  living  together,  the  siblings  get  most  of  their  affairs 
managed  by  the  elderly  male  members.  The  latter  even  help  arrange 
marriages  of  the  younger  ones.  Between  brother  and  sister  the  relation¬ 
ship  does  not  cease  to  exist  even  when  she  is  married  out.  On  most 
of  the  festive  as  well  as  sad  occasions  she  visits  the  brother’s  house. 
She  continues  to  share  his  sorrows  and  joys  for  almost  the  whole  of  her 
life.  As  part  of  kinship  obligation  and  usage  the  brother  does  extend 
material  help  to  the  sister  on  all  festive  occasions  attended  by  her.  The 
Ladakhis,  however,  accept  that  the  relationship  between  the  brother  and 
sister  is  more  close  and  intimate  till  she  remains  in  her  parental  house. 
When  she  gets  married  and  goes  out  with  the  husband  the  relationship 
assumes  mild  form.  Now  that  she  can  have  equal  share  in  ancestral 
property  but  it  is  never  aspired  for.  However,  a  sister’s  intimacy  with 
her  brothers  does  not  diminish  even  if  her  husband  joins  her  in  ancestral 
home  after  marriage.  It  is  not  considered  bad  if  the  husband  stays  with 
the  brother-in-law.  Some  families  prefer  this  practice  as  they  want 
man-power  to  look  after  agriculture  and  allied  activities.  The  man  who 
joins  through  marital  alliance  serves  the  purpose.  The  system  works 
well  because  there  is  no  demand  for  avoidance  at  interactional  level. 
Too  much  of  privacy  is  not  desired.  When  the  brothers  are  staying  in 
separate  houses  they  do,  under  normal  conditions,  extend  help  and 
cooperation  to  one  another.  They  depend  on  each  other  while  in 
difficulty,  as  also  on  other  occasions  where  element  of  kin-based  recipro¬ 
city  intervenes.  Under  the  difficult  terrain  and  imposing  geographical 
conditions  the  cooperation  is  essentially  required  in  various  pursuits. 
And  the  persons  related  through  blood  and  marriage  form  the  chief 
source  of  help.  Of  course  there  are  other  sources  not  based  on  kinship. 

The  husband-wife  relationship  is  marked  by  affection,  coopera¬ 
tion,  conflict  and  tolerance.  The  conflict  is  not  a  regular  feature  of  their 
life.  It  assumes  serious  form  only  in  some  exceptional  situation.  This 
may  even  separate  them  from  each  other,  or  may  lea,d  to  divorce.  Nor¬ 
mally  the  husband  has  an  upper  hand  and  more  say  in  family  matters. 
His  assertion  prevails  over  the  rest  of  the  family  members.  In  most  of 
the  cases  the  husband  enjoys  his  status  of  authority  and  dominance  over 
others.  His  recognition >  is  established.  But  if  a  husband’s  ability  is 
not  upto  the  mark  the  wife  attends  to  most  of  the  family  requirements. 



Her  verdict  in  family  matters  is  also  accepted.  Even  then  the  husband 
is  not  to  be  totally  ignored  though  the  dependence  on  him  decreases. 
Under  such  circumstances  the  mother’s  role  becomes  more  prominent 
and  rest  of  the  family  members  bank  more  on  her.  In  matters  outside 
the  family  the  representation  of  husband  is  more  than  the  wife.  The 
latter  does  not  attend  to  outside  calls  unless  her  husband  is  unfit  to  do 
that.  Headmanship  and  leadership  are  in  the  hands  of  males  alone. 
Normally  the  father  or  the  eldest  son  heads  the  family. 

Division  of  labour  and  family 

There  are  no  rigid  rules  to  press  upon  a  person  to  do  only  the  specific 
jobs.  Some  division  of  labour  does  exist  but  it  never  suggests  that  a 
person  cannot  undertake  any  other  role  meant  for  other  member  in  the 
family.  An  adult  Ladakhi  is  usually  multipurpose.  But  at  the  same 
time  the  family  members  are  primarily  assigned  certain  specific  duties  on 
account  of  diverse  reasons.  The  role  allotment  has  been  done  keeping 
in  view  age,  sex,  formal  education,  physical  fitness  opportunity,  religious 
obligation,  community  expectation  and  the  prevailing  norms.  More 
aged  ones  sit  in  the  house  and  keep  busy  rotating  the  prayer  wheel.  To¬ 
wards  the  later  years  of  their  life  span  they  are  more  eager  to  achieve 
religious  merit.  It  is  believed  that  such  merit  is  achieved  with  the  rotation 
of  prayer  wheel.  The  act  of  rotating  the  prayer  wheel  also  ensures  good 
luck  to  all  the  family  members.  Members  of  both  the  sexes  operate 
upon  the  prayer  wheel.  This  job  is,  however,  not  done  by  all  the  old 
people,  and  all  the  time.  Those  who  are  comparatively  fit  go  ahead 
with  other  activities  which  help  them  secure  their  bread  and  butter.  Some 
of  them  tend  cattle  for  grazing  and  keep  busy  with  one  or  the  other 
agricultural  activity.  There  are  others  who  do  baby-sitting  in  the 
house  when  rest  of  the  family  members  are  engaged  in  other  pursuits. 
If  time  permits  they  switch  on  to  spinning,  weaving  and  making  of  shoes, 
ropes,  socks,  etc.  Shoe-making  and  weaving  cannot  be  done  by  all  the 
Ladakhis.  But  spinning  is  known  to  almost  all  of  them.  It  is  generally 
the  old  men  and  women  who  keep  a  watch  over  the  crops.  The  watching 
of  crops  can  be  done  sitting  at  a  point  near  the  house  when  the  agricul¬ 
ture  fields  are  adjoining.  If  the  fields  are  little  away  they  manage  to 
go  there  and  do  the  needful.  Among  families,  not  having  the  aged 
persons,  the  watching  of  crops  can  be  done  by  any  other  member.  The 
ploughing,  sowing,  carrying  and  broadcasting  of  compost,  cutting  of 
grass,  harvesting  of  crops,  preparation  of  bricks,  construction  of  fencing 
walls,  digging  of  water  channel,  bringing  of  drinking  water,  winnowing 
and  threshing,  transportation  of  goods  by  yaks  and  horses,  are  essen¬ 
tially  the  jobs  of  the  young  people.  Lately  a  large  number  of  them  got 
employment  on  regular  or  casual  basis.  Most  of  these  are  engaged  as 
labourers.  Their  participation  in  household  and  agriculture  works  is 
now  subsidiary.  Many  of  the  aged  ones  also  work  as  labourers.  The 



role  of  the  young  females  is  no  less  important,  They  participate  in  all 
the  activities  except  ploughing  of  the  fields,  a  specialized  job  meant  for 
men  only.  Over  and  above,  the  household  work  is  primarily  a  woman’s 
concern.  Being  the  chief  cook  of  the  house  she  spends  most  of  her  time 
in  preparing  food  and  Gur  Gur  and  in  serving  the  same  to  all  family 
members.  Preparation  of  Chang  is  also  the  arena  of  females.  They  are 
considered  as  the  best  hostesses  for  serving  Chang  and  Gur  Gur. 
Cleaning  of  utensil  and  the  house,  burning  fire,  serving  of  food  etc.,  are 
all  done  by  the  females.  The  young  daughters  and  the  daughter-in-law 
are  usually  seen  cooking  food.  Except  when  unavoidable  the  old  ladies 
do  not  cook.  When  the  house-wife  is  not  well,  or  if  she  goes  out  to 
some  other  place  for  long  stay  the  entire  household  work  is  done  by  the 
men  only.  It  is  no  condition  that  the  men  would  never  do  the  women’s 
job.  In  the  sphere  of  women’s  activities,  child  rearing  and  fetching  of 
of  water  are  the  other  essential  concerns.  But  the  men  also  share  as 
and  when  needed.  In  addition  to  their  routine  household  activities,  the 
women  also  spend  some  time  in  spinning,  weaving,  knitting,  sewing  etc. 
if  they  happen  to  know  the  same.  It  has  further  been  observed  that  the 
women  work  more  in  the  agriculture  fields.  At  ideological  level  the 
dominance  of  men  in  agriculture  activities  is  always  stressed.  One  can 
regularly  see  women  working  in  the  fields,  and  the  men  drinking  Chang 
ann  Gur  Gur  or  relaxing  here  and  there.  The  younger  children  who  are 
not  in  a  position  to  help  the  parents  in  any  major  work  either  loiter 
around  or  attend  schools  which  have  lately  been  opened  in  almost  all 
the  villages.  Some  of  them,  especially  those  around  the  age  of  eight-to-ten 
years,  are  asked  to  look  after  their  younger  brother  or  sister  when  the 
adult  family  members  go  out  for  outdoor  work.  The  educated  Ladakhis 
are  hesitant  to  participate  in  their  traditional  family  duties.  Their 
contribution  is  less  as  they  devote  more  time  to  the  new  assignment. 
Even  otherwise  they  find  little  time  to  attend  to  other  activities.  Such 
people  are  those  who  have  been  absorbed  in  various  regular  services. 
A  majority  of  such  people  leave  their  villages  early  morning  and  return 
only  in  the  late  evening.  They  can  get  a  chance  to  participate  in  their 
traditional  division  of  labour  only  on  Sundays  and  other  holidays.  The 
families,  having  more  manpower,  do  not  even  disturb  those  earning 
through  employment.  But  such  wage-earners  are  not  spared  from  hard 
toil  when  no  other  manpower  is  available.  The  females,  in  such  families, 
have  to  devote  more  time  to  agriculture  activities.  Some  of  the  large 
families  have  made  an  adjustment  with  the  new  conditions.  Depending 
upon  the  strength  of  the  family  members  they  spare  one  or  more  persons 
to  go  in  for  regular  employment.  The  rest,  whom  they  consider  as 
sufficient  to  take  care  of  agriculture  and  other  requirements,  stay  back. 
By  doing  so  they  have  availed  of  the  new  opporunity  of  employment, as 
also  retaining  the  traditional  source  of  income  and  division  of  labour. 

The  pattern  of  division  of  labour  in  the  family  is  temporarily  dis¬ 
turbed  when  the  Ladakhis  respond  to  the  call  of  religious  order.  There 



is  reciprocity  of  services  between  the  Ladakhis  and  their  monastic  orga¬ 
nization.  The  Kushok  and  the  Lamas  cater  to  the  religious  needs  of 
Ladakhis.  The  Ladakhi  life  is  so  religion-oriented  that  the  people  can¬ 
not  do  without  the  help  of  religious  persons.  For  all  major  events  the 
services  of  Lamas  are  requisitioned.  r  And  the  specialists  are  suitably 
rewarded.  In  addition  the  villagers  supply  manpower  to  the  monastery 
to  carry  on  its  secular  functions.  There  is  a  set  procedure  defined  for 
the  purpose.  The  village  headman  deputes  people,  by  rotation,  to  work 
for  Gompa  and  to  serve  the  Lamas.  No  one  dares  turn  down  the  head¬ 
man’s  instructions.  In  case  of  family  has  no  man-power  to  spare  the 
head  of  the  family  engages,  on  payment  basis,  the  required  number  of 
people  who  are  asked  to  work  for  Gompa.  While  working  for  Gompa, 
the  normal  labour  in  family  gets  up-set.  The  monastic  organization  is 
held  so  strong  that  no  one  dare  say  no  to  the  deputation  of  their  men  or 
women  to  work  for  the  monastery  and  its  inmates.  Many  a  times  it 
sounds  like  forced  labour  in  the  name  of  religion. 

Apart  from  their  economic  involvements  the  members  in  a  Ladakhi 
family  have  to  regularly  devote  some  time  to  a  religious  rite  observed 
in  the  worship  room  of  the  family.  In  the  religion-dominated  community 
of  Ladakhis  almost  every  family  maintains  a  room,  or  a  little  space  in 
a  room,  meant  for  keeping  the  idol  or  images  or  photographs  of  their 
gods  and  goddesses.  These  chiefly  represent  reincarnations.  Some 
of  the  religious  paintings  are  also  fixed  on  the  walls  of  this  room.  This 
is  the  best  maintained  room,  usually  having  a  Ladakhi  carpet  spread 
on  its  floor  and  Ladakhi  tables  arranged  in  order.  A  variety  of  utensils 
and  other  equipment  are  also  housed  there.  Some  of  the  tumblers  need 
to  be  daily  filled  with  fresh  water.  Other  bowls  are  filled  with  grain  and 
butter.  A  wick,  immersed  in  butter,  is  made  to  burn  in  flame.  All 
this  is  to  be  done  every  morning  by  an  adult  male  or  female  member  of 
the  family. 

Social  boycot 

The  interaction  between  various  families  is  primarily  governed  by  a 
common  objective  of  maintaining  solidarity.  Each  other’s  welfare  is 
bothered  for  in  the  interest  of  group.  The  participation  in  various  rites 
and  ceremonies,  observed  by  any  family,  is  a  grand  affair.  On  occasions 
when  more  manpower  is  needed  by  a  family,  the  others  help  outrightly. 
The  unity  among  various  families  is  widely  observed  at  the  time  of 
harvesting  of  crops  and  the  death  feasts.  Even  the  families,  not  connec¬ 
ted  by  blood  and  marriage,  have  devised  means  to  help  each  other.  The 
system  of  Phasphuns  is  the  most  important  living  example  of  this 
kind.  Instances  of  ordinary  assistance  are  more  or  less  regularly  marked 
among  the  members  of  families  of  neighbourhood.  The  pattern  of 
inter-family  relationship  is  so  designed  that  no  family  feels  as  if  they  are 
denied  of  help  and  cooperation  of  other  families.  Difficult  environ- 



mental  conditions  provide  major  background  to  helpful  attitude  and 
cooperation.  The  difficult  surroundings  have  made  living  hard.  No 
family  can  afford  to  think  of  self  alone,  in  isolation  of  other  families. 
If,  on  account  of  certain  undesirable  acts,  a  family  is  temporarily  boy¬ 
cotted  by  the  rest,  its  existence  is  immediately  threatened.  Indulgence 
in  antisocial  acts  is,  therefore,  mostly  avoided.  But  still  there  is  provision 
for  social  boycot  of  a  person/family  to  make  the  Ladakhis  realise  of 
their  age-old  binding  and  norms. 

Social  boycot  is  locally  termed  as  Melan  Chhulam.  It  debars  one 
from  sharing  water  and  fire  with  others.  Social  boycot  is  hardly  resorted 
to.  And  if  at  all  it  is  done,  it  assumes  only  a  temporary  form.  This  is 
to  avoid  putting  a  person  in  difficulty.  Even  the  temporary  boycot 
is  believed  to  help  a  great  deal  in  the  maintenance  of  social  control.  Being 
scared  of  the  provision  for  social  boycot  people  remain  very  submissive 
to  the  group  interest  and  the  norms  of  society.  Under  the  hard  condi¬ 
tions  it  is  believed  that  the  existence,  in  isolation  of  ones  own  fraternity 
people  (posed  by  social  boycot),  would  come  too  hard  .  The  social 
boycot  is  thought  of  only  in  case  of  serious  violations  of  religious  bindings 
and  the  norms  holding  community  integration.  People  may  plan  for 
social  boycot. 

1.  when  someone  challenges  or  threats  the  Kushok  or  Lama, 

2.  when  one  tries  to  indulge  in  party-politics  against  the  religious 
heads,  and 

3.  when  one  poses  a  threat  to  community  life. 

When  anyone  gets  involved  in  the  above  acts  the  Goba  and  his 
assistants  call  for  a  meeting  of  the  elderly  men  of  the  village.  The 
defaulter  is  given  a  chance  to  express  himself.  And  if  he  does  not  satisfy  the 
gatheirnghis  social  boycot  is  announced  with  the  following  provisions. 

1.  The  Lamas  stop  serving  the  defaulter  and  his  family.  It  may  be 
mentioned  that  the  Ladakhis  are  so  much  religion  bound  that 
they  cannot  do  without  worship.  And  the  latter  is  done  only 
by  the  Lamas.  It  is  a  terrible  demoralisation  when  one  is 
dispossessed  of  the  religious  services. 

2.  Nobody  not  even  his  close  relatives,  would  visit  him. 

3.  All  kind  of  help  and  cooperation  are  withdrawn  from  the  person 
as  well  as  the  family.  Althrough  the  affected  people  have  to 
manage  single  handed. 

4.  Neither  the  person  is  offered,  food  by  anyone  nor  his  food  accepted. 

5.  The  person  is  denied  the  right  of  having  marital  alliance  with 
any  member  of  Ladakhi  group. 

Such  an  alienation  puts  the  person  to  extremely  difficult  conditions 
which  make  him  realise  his  folly.  In  order  to  revive  his  earlier  favours 



from  community  the  pardon  is  not  only  sought  from  Goba  and  his  assis¬ 
tants  but  also  from  the  Lamas  and  the  Kushok. 

Gyut  or  Rigs 

Gyut  is  a  bigger  social  group  than  the  family.  It  refers  to  a  group 
of  people  who  trace  descent  from  a  common  ancestor  or  ancestress.  As 
the  group  is  based  on  blood  tie  the  entry  of  an  outsider  into  the  group  is 
not  permitted.  The  Gyuts  have  no  specific  names,  but  the  villagers 
know  of  their  respective  Rigs.  They  are  even  aware  of  others  existing 
in  the  village.  In  the  absence  of  Gyut  name,  and  in  the  absence  of  the 
existence  of  clan,  there  is  marked  no  association  between  such  social 
groups  and  the  surname  of  the  individuals.  In  fact  the  Ladakhis  do  not 
have  surnames.  No  part  of  an  individual’s  name  is  inherited  from  any 
member  of  the  senior  generation.  From  the  names  of  the  persons  they 
cannot  be  identified  as  belonging  to  certain  specific  Gyuts.  Because 
of  having  blood  relationship,  the  members  of  a  Gyut  are  not  allowed  to 
marry  each  other.  A  Rigs  is  always  exogamous.  The  relationship 
ties  with  the  members  of  Rigs  group  are  recognised  upto  five  or  six 
generation.  That  way  the  group  is  more  comparable  to  the  lineage  rather 
than  to  the  clan  or  sept.  The  size  of  a  Gyut  is  not  fixed.  It  depends 
upon  the  degree  or  recognition  of  a  common  association  to  an  ancestor 
or  ancestress,  as  also  on  the  bulk  of  surviving  persons.  In  a  family  the 
husband  belongs  to  a  Gyut  different  from  his  wife.  The  children  continue 
to  inherit  father’s  Gyut.  At  the  same  time  the  mother’s  Gyut  continues  to 
be  recognised,  especially  for  the  purpose  of  marriage.  Her  son  and 
daughter  cannot  be  married  with  members  of  her  Gyut.  That  way 
the  Gyut,  and  not  the  clan,  regulates  marriage  rules.  Normally,  the 
members  of  a  Gyut  stay  in  the  same  village,  exception  being  those  who 
leave  the  group  after  marriage. 

Functionally  the  Gyut  forms  an  important  group.  Its  members 
often  interact  for  diverse  purposes.  They  seek  each  other’s  help  and 
cooperation.  Due  recognition  is  accorded  to  Gyut  relationship  at  the 
time  of  marriage,  Losar,  conflict  etc.  Principle  of  reciprocity  is  observed 
while  rendering  help  and  cooperation.  On  the  occasion  of  Losar  the 
Gyut  members  invite  each  other  for  food  and  drinks.  Any  marriage 
in  the  Gyut  involves  certain  obligations  on  its  members.  As  part  of 
kinship  usage,  prevalent  in  Rigs,  its  adult  members  do  offer  Khataks 
(ceremonial  scarfs)  to  the  husband  of  a  girl  after  her  marriage.  The 
newly-weds  are  also  invited  for  meals  and  drinks.  In  fact  the  Gyut 
members  regard  any  of  the  girl  from  the  group  as  their  own  daughter  or 
sister.  And  the  above  mentioned  treatment  is  the  result  of  this  kind  of 
consideration.  A  girl  is  given  clothes  by  those  members  of  Gyut  with 
whom  her  relationship  is  further  close.  Likewise,  the  people  of  Gyut 
render  help  at  the  time  of  death.  The  Ladakhis  have  to  arrange  a  few 
feasts  after  the  death  of  a  person.  The  chief  eaters  are  the  Lamas  and 



Phasphuns.  The  Gyut  families  provide  help  while  arranging  the  feast. 
When  a  death  occurs  in  the  house  of  ‘X’,  the  ‘Y’,  who  is  closely  related, 
and  is  from  within  the  Gyut,  also  arranges  for  a  feast,  on  his  own  behalf, 
in  the  name  of  the  dead.  Such  a  feast  is  arranged  in  the  dead  person’s 
house  but  all  its  expenses  are  incurred  by  one  outside  the  family.  When 
someone  is  not  in  a  position  to  manage  the  feast  for  the  whole  day,  he 
may  share  expenses  for  a  portion  of  it.  If  no  adult  member  is  left  in  a 
family  to  look  after  the  minor  children,  the  responsibility  of  their  bring¬ 
ing  up  falls  on  Gyut  families.  One  of  the  families,  closely  related, 
assumes  the  responsibility  of  rearing  the  minor  ones  till  they  come  to 
a  position  to  stand  on  their  own  feet.  The  work  is  taken  up  as  part  of 
moral  responsibility  vested  in  Gyut.  If  the  Gyut  families  are  not  in  a 
position  to  manage,  the  matter  is  looked  into  by  the  members  of  Phasphun, 
a  still  wider  social  group.  The  helpless  ones  are,  thus,  not  left  in  lurch. 
Even  if  the  relationship  of  Gyut  does  not  mark  two  families  they  may 
help  each  other  in  various  walks  of  life.  For  instance  they  can  borrow 
each  other’s  bullock  for  ploughing,  as  also  exchange  labour  help.  In 
harvesting  and  other  agriculture  activities  they  render  help  on  the  basis 
of  reciprocity.  Assistance,  in  cash  and  kind,  is  also  provided  on  various 
festive  occasions,  including  marriage.  On  the  other  extreme  some 
families  are  in  conflict  with  one  another.  In  that  case  they  withdraw  their 
mutual  cooperation.  The  land  and  physical  beating  of  an  individual 
under  intoxication  form  major  basis  of  conflict. 

In  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  Gyut  members  are  related  through  blood 
they  do  not  necessarily  belong  to  a  common  Phasphun.  The  families 
from  the  same  Gyut  may  join  different  Phasphuns.  It  does  not  mean  that 
no  two  families  of  a  Gyut  can  become  Phasphun  to  one  another,  From 
the  existing  network  of  Gyuts  and  Phasphuns  it  is  clear  that  the  factors, 
other  than  kinship,  are  also  taken  into  account  in  the  selection  of 
Phasphuns.  Rather,  the  kinship  consideration  is  comparatively  less 
important.  Gyut  membership  is  determined  by  birth,  while  Phasphun 
membership  is  voluntary  and  is  based  on  the  worship  of  a  common  god. 

Phasphun  and  family 

The  help  at  the  time  of  birth,  death  and  marriage  is  mutually  rendered 
by  specific  families.  These  families,  and  the  members  thereof,  are  known 
as  Phasphun  of  each  other.  It  is  a  brotherhood  pool  where  members 
are  not  necessarily  related  through  blood  and  marriage.  When  the 
grand-parents  and  the  parents  in  a  family  die,  leaving  helpless  minor 
children,  the  Phasphun  members  come  to  their  rescue  and  protection. 
One  of  the  Phasphun  families  looks  after  these  children  and  takes  the 
responsibility  of  their  bringing  up.  Some  family  volunteers  for  the  job. 
When  no  one  comes  forward  the  heads  of  Phasphun  families  organise 
a  meeting  and  decide  as  to  who  would  do  the  needful.  No  family  would 
disrespect  the  decision.  It  is  always  carried  out  for  the  sake  of  unity  in 




Phasphun.  When  the  members  of  a  family  desire  to  live  separately, 
Phasphun  representatives  are  informed.  Readily  responding  to  the 
call  they  make  impartial  division  of  the  family  property.  Their  decisions 
are  binding  and  are  agreed  upon  without  resentment. 

The  network  of  relation  in  Phasphun  organization  is,  thus,  of  an 
important  nature.  And  its  members  try  to  keep  it  up.  The  membership 
of  Phasphun  is  limited.  Rut  there  is  no  hard  bound  restriction  to  its 
increase  or  decrease  in  terms  of  strength.  In  general,  once  a  family 
is  member  of  a  particular  Phasphun  it  continues  to  be  so.  When  an 
issueless  couple  adopts  someone  the  adopted  one  also  joins  the  same 
Phasphun  as  that  of  the  adopting  parents.  He  or  she  ceases  to  be  a 
member  of  the  earlier  Phasphun.  The  families  of  Phasphun  do  not 
object  to  such  a  rearrangement.  The  additions  are  treated  as  regular 
members  of  the  group. 

Phasphun,  as  defined  by  the  Ladakhis,  is  a  social  group  composed 
of  a  few  families  whose  members  worship  a  common  god  and  help  one 
another  on  all  festive  and  sad  occasions.  All  the  Phasphun  families 
have  common  La  (god)  and  they  together  worship  him  on  the  occasion 
of  Losar.  The  members  of  such  families  are  not  necessarily  connected 
through  descent  or  any  other  kinship  ties.  Social  group  apart,  the 
Phasphun  also  refers  to  the  relationship  as  a  Ladakhi  is  often  heard 
remarking  that  so  and  so  is  his  Phasphun.  There  is  no  definite  size 
defined  for  a  Phasphun  group;  it  varies  from  group  to  group. 

The  composition  of  the  Phasphun  groups,  as  found  during  the 
course  of  my  fieldwork,  is  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  size  of  Phasphun  groups 


Size  of  Phasphun 

Total  number  of 


No.  of  families 

families  represented 



up  to  5 




6  to  10 




11  to  15 




Above  15 



It  may  also  be  mentioned  that  three  famlies  do  not  belong  to  any 
Phasphun  group.  In  this  sense  they  live  independently.  The  heads  of 
the  other  three  families  informed  that  they  do  not  know  the  number  of 
families  in  their  Phasphun  groups.  But  it  is  obvious  from  the  above 
table  that  the  size  of  a  Phasphun  group  does  not  exceed  fifteen  families. 
More  (61.00%)  of  the  Phasphun,  however,  retain  a  composition  of 
six  to  ten  families. 

It  may  further  be  mentioned  that  a  Phasphun  group  does  not 
correspond  to  any  territorial  unit.  At  times  one  or  two  families,  out 



of  a  Phasphun  group,  may  be  related  through  kinship.  But  there  is  no 
hard  and  fast  rule  about  it.  Even  the  neighbouring  families  do  not 
necessarily  belong  to  a  common  Phasphun  group.  There  are  cases  where 
two  families,  living  in  close  proximity,  are  not  connected  through  Phas¬ 
phun  relationship.  Rather,  the  Phasphuns  of  the  other  two  families  are 
those  living  at  distant  places.  Sometimes  the  families  living  in  different 
villages  are  found  sharing  a  common  Phasphun  group.  For  instance, 
Wangyal  from  Sabu  has  all  his  Phasphuns  living  in  Shee  village.  And 
all  the  four  Phasphun  families  worship  Chozhanskang  god  of  Hemis 
monastery.  But  the  latter  practice  is  reported  in  case  of  those  who  do 
not  have,  in  the  village,  the  families  of  their  own  ethnic  group.  The 
Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  are  usually  having  one  family  each  in  almost  every 
village.  At  the  same  time  they  are  not  permitted  to  be  Phasphun  to 
Ladakhis.  Under  the  circumstances  the  Phasphuns  of  a  Gara  would 
be  the  Gara  families  from  other  villages.  Similar  is  the  position  of  Mon 
and  Beda.  But  in  case  of  the  Ladakhis  the  Phasphuns  are,  in  most  of 
the  cases,  from  within  the  village.  It  is  always  preferred  that  a  Phasphun 
family  does  not  live  in  some  far  off  village. 

The  Phasphun  group  of  the  Ladakhis  cannot,  in  any  way,  be  equated 
to  a  clan  group.  The  members  of  Phasphun  are  not  necessarily  connec¬ 
ted  through  common  descent.  They  can  even  marry  each  other  when 
they  are  not  lineally  related  through  kinship.  The  Gyut  members  do 
not  marry  each  other  but  there  is  no  such  bar  to  Phasphuns,  if  other 
things  permit.  Again  the  clan  name  of  a  man  does  not  normally  change 
if  he  joins  his  wife’s  residence  after  marriage.  But  the  Phasphun  of  a 
man,  among  Ladakhis,  would  change  under  this  circumstance.  The 
man  is  immediately  dissociated  from  his  original  Phasphun  group  and 
accepted  as  a  member  of  his  father-in-law’s  Phasphun  group.  Thus,  the 
individuals  from  the  Phasphun  group  keep  on  drifting,  affecting  the  total 
strength  of  the  group.  Likewise  the  composition  of  a  Phasphun  group 
is  again  disturbed  when  some  family  leaves  the  Phasphun  group,  or  if 
some  new  one  joins.  Leaving  of  a  Phasphun  group  involves  no  ritual 
or  ceremony.  But  for  the  new  entrant  it  is  necessary  to  worship  the  god 
owned  by  the  Phasphun  wished  to  be  joined.  The  worship  involves 
offerings  of  small  white  flags  and  Khatak.  The  occasion  is  also  marked 
by  the  offering  of  Chang  and  Gur  Gur  to  all  the  Phasphun  members.  All 
members  of  the  Phasphun  know  the  name  and  location  of  their  common 
god.  The  image  of  Phasphun  god  is  kept  in  a  Gompa  or  in  a  house  of  some 
Phasphun  family.  It  may  also  be  installed  on  a  hillock. 

The  religious  element  does  play  an  important  role  in  the  structure 
and  function  of  Phasphun  group.  The  entire  network  of  relationship 
is  maintained  under  the  fear  of  common  god.  If  the  prescribed  pattern 
of  duties  and  obligations  is  not  observed,  the  Phasphun  god  may  get 
indifferent  and  come  hard  on  the  members.  The  common  god  is  also 
held  responsible  for  general  welfare  of  the  Phasphun.  With  this  back¬ 
ground  the  Ladakhis  cannot  afford  to  annoy  him.  All  the  Phasphun 



members,  together,  perform  an  elaborate  annual  worship  to  appease 
the  Phasphun  god.  They  all  visit  the  place  and  make  necessary  offerings. 

It  is  through  the  god  of  Phasphun  that  link  is  maintained  with  the 
wider  monastic  religion.  He  must  belong  either  to  the  Red  or  the  Yellow 
Sect  of  Buddhism.  Some  of  the  Phasphun  gods  from  Sabu  are  linked 
with  Hemis  Gompa,  a  Red  Sect  monastery ;  and  the  rest  to  Spituk  Gompa, 
the  Yellow  Sect  monastery. If  a  bigger  Gompa  does  not  exist  in  near 
vicinity,  the  Phasphun  god  is  associated  with  some  Vihara  (smaller 
Gompa)  located  at  the  nearest  point.  The  association  with  the  chief 
monastery  is  then  represented  through  Vihara.  The  existence  of  such 
an  arrangement  points  to  another  important  characteristic  of  Phasphun 
group.  The  members  of  a  Phasphun  group  must  belong  to  one  of  the 
two  religious  sects  existing  in  Ladakh.  They  do  follow  either  the  Red 
or  the  Yellow  sect.  In  order,  therefore,  that  the  god  may  not  get  annoyed, 
all  families  show  respect  to  their  roles  and  duties.  For  instance  the  dead 
body  of  one  of  the  Phasphun  members  is  taken  care  of  by  the  people 
of  Phasphun.  Till  the  time  of  cremation  it  remains  in  the  custody  of 
Phasphun s.  It  is  only  they  who  make  the  dead  body  arrange  in  sitting 
posture.  Only  a  Phasphun  manages  for  fire  to  cremate  the  dead  body. 
Further,  the  Phasphuns  look  after  the  mourners  as  well  as  the  Lamas. 
They  are  to  be  fed  and  extend  other  possible  comforts.  The  property 
and  other  belongings  of  the  bereaved  family  are  also  watched  by  the 
Phasphun  families.  One  of  the  superstitious  beliefs  of  the  Ladakhis  is 
that  the  water  channels  in  the  village  should  not  be  crossed  by  the  spouse 
of  the  dead  person  for  atleast  one  month  after  the  death.  If  anybody 
overlooks  the  taboo  he  is  bound  to  bring  bad  luck  to  the  villagers. 
The  channels  may  also  dry  up  and  cause  drought  and  disease.  In  order 
that  no  channel  is  crossed,  the  person  concerned,  if  has  a  house  in  the 
middle  of  the  village,  is  temporarily  accommodated  in  a  Phasphun’ s  house 
located  on  the  outskirts  of  the  village.  If  no  such  arrangement  is  made 
the  person  stays  in  a  tent  temporarily  erected  for  the  purpose.  During 
the  mourning  period  following  death  the  household  work  as  well  as  the 
fields,  crops  and  animals  of  the  bereaved  family  are  looked  after  by  the 
Phasphuns.  The  family  concerned  need  not  bother  for  such  work.  As 
in  case  of  death  the  help  is  also  rendered  when  the  marriage  takes  place 
in  one  of  the  Phasphun  families. 

In  spite  of  the  involvement  of  social  and  religious  obligations  as 
part  of  Phasphun  network  there  is  no  compulsion  that  no  family  from 
the  group  would  ever  leave  it,  or  no  new  family  would  freshly  be  admitted. 
Some  may  leave  the  group,  while  others  may  join.  The  disintegration 
of  a  Phasphun  group  may  occur  when  some  member  families  decide  to 
settle  at  some  distant  place.  They,  then,  prefer  to  join  a  new  Phasphun 
in  the  immediate  surrounding.  Thus,  disintegration  of  one  group  cuases 
strengthening  of  the  other.  The  structural  disruption  is  also  caused 
when  there  brooms  an  inter-family  conflict  in  Phasphun  group.  Thirdly, 
when  a  Phasphun  group  becomes  unmanageable,  from  the  point  of  its 



numerical  strength,  some  people  voluntarily  decide  to  back  out.  The 
feeing  is  that  smaller  the  group  the  better  is  its  efficiency  in  terms  of  services. 
Yet  another  trend  has  lately  been  generated.  Of  late  the  Ladakhis  got 
divided  into  two  political  groups,  namely,  Congress  ‘A’  and  Congress 
‘B’.  This  happened  in  view  of  supporting  their  respective  candidate 
in  the  formal  elections  of  Parliament  and  State  Assembly.  This  division 
reflected  on  Phasphun  groups  which  also  go  divided  into  ‘A’  and  ‘B’. 
With  this  some  members  decided  to  leave  their  original  Phasphun  group 
and  join  one  of  their  own  political  interest.  The  trend  led  to  reorgani¬ 
sation  of  the  Phasphun  groups.  This  kind  of  process  has,  thus,  adversely 
reacted  to  the  traditional  social  formation.  Alongwith  the  contraction 
or  expansion  of  Phasphun  groups  the  nature  of  relationship  among  the 
members  also  changed,  more  from  smooth  to  strained  ones.  The  new 
trends  have  caused  yet  another  change  in  Phasphun  organisation.  This 
is  again  an  outcome  of  the  influence  of  new  political  trends.  Prior  to 
1947,  when  the  Kalhons  used  to  be  in  power,  every  Ladakhi  family  in 
Kalhan’s  neighbourhood,  village  and  jurisdiction,  used  to  be  regarded 
as  his  Phasphun  family.  All  such  families  rendered  help  to  Kalhon’s 
family  on  festbe  as  weii  as  the  mourning  occasions.  But  then  the  Kalhon 
and  his  family  members  never  reciprocated.  This  type  of  system  started 
collapsing  after  the  Kalhon’s  position  ceased  to  be  recognised  as  high 
in  the  new  political  set-up.  This  compelled  the  Kalhon  families  to  have 
a  few  Phasphuns  on  the  basis  of  reciprocity  of  services.  Now  the  rela¬ 
tionship  is  reciprocal  rather  than  of  om  way,  presenting  a  more  democratic 

Like  the  Phasphun  relationship,  characterised  by  help  and  coopera¬ 
tion,  there  is  the  Chhasphun  relation  whereunder  two  Ladakhis,  from  two 
different  families,  render  assistance  to  one  another.  The  Chhasphun 
relationship  is  between  two  individuals  and  not  between  the  families  as 
observed  in  case  of  the  Phasphun.  Kinship  does  not  form  the  basis  of 
Chhasphun  relation .  As  a  procedure  two  persons  ,  married  or  unmarried, 
of  the  opposite  sex  and  of  any  age  decide  to  get  into  brother  sister  rela¬ 
tionship.  Such  persons  are  from  different  families  and  usually  not 
related.  For  similar  thinking  and  ideas,  they  develop  liking  for  each 
other.  A  stage  comes  when  they  decide  to  be  declared  as  Chhasphun 
to  each  other.  A  worship,  as  prerequisite,  to  solidify  this  relationship 
is  then  performed.  It  is  performed  by  the  Lamas.  After  the  worship 
is  over,  the  Lamas  make  two  knots  in  the  name  of  individuals.  This 
certifies  the  declaration  of  two  as  Chhasphun.  The  declaration  does 
define  certain  obligations  and  usuages  which  are  to  be  observed  by  the 
persons  concerned.  They  cannot  marry  each  other  nor  think  of  indul¬ 
ging  in  sexual  relationship.  Ceremonial  exchange  of  things  between  the 
two  is  recommended.  Chhasphuns  look  to  each  other’s  comforts  and 

The  Phaspun  group  is  again  vital  in  the  classification  of  village 



community.  Member  of  every  Phasphun  group  categorically  classify 
the  Ladakhis  of  their  village  into  two  divisions  : 

1.  Those  who  eat  in  most  of  the  feasts  connected  with  birth  and 

2.  Those  who  do  not  eat  in  all  the  birth  and  death  feasts.  They  do 
so  in  certain  specific  ones. 

In  the  first  category  are  included  the  members  of  ones  own  Phasphun 
group  plus  those  of  the  Gyut.  The  rest  of  the  people  are  grouped  under 
the  second  category.  Thus  if  a  child  is  born  in  Phasphun  ‘A’,  then  all 
its  members  would  join  in  the  feast  connected  with  the  occasion.  They 
may  also  be  joined  by  the  Gyut  members  of  the  family  in  which  the  birth 
has  taken  place.  But  the  rest  of  the  people  would  join  only  in  the  feast 
organized  after  the  monthly  worship,  meant  for  the  new  born,  is  over. 
The  participation  of  Phasphuns  and  the  Gyut  members  at  equal  level, 
in  the  context  under  reference  shows  that  the  persons  connected  through 
the  worship  of  a  common  god  are  as  important  as  those  connected  through 
kniship.  Another  idea,  underlined  in  the  system,  is  to  reduce  the  economic 
burden  on  the  family  arranging  the  feast.  In  the  big  network  of  feasts, 
which  Ladakhis  observe,  if  all  participate  all  the  time  the  burden  on  the 
host  would  be  too  much.  As  a  relief  mechanism  only  the  closest  members 
are  made  to  join  the  feasts.  In  order  that  rest  of  the  village  community 
is  not  altogether  ignored,  its  members  are  invited  to  participate  in  one 
birth  and  one  death  feast.  In  other  word  the  large  village  community 
is  given  a  secondary  place;  the  first  goes  to  ones  own  Pahsphuns  and 
Gyut  people. 


Institution  of  Marriage 

The  process  of  marrying  involves  an  interplay  of  kniship,  religion, 
economy  and  certain  other  traits  of  Ladakhi  culture.  Those  connected 
through  kniship  help  arrange  a  suitable  match.  They  also  define  the 
sphere  of  avoidance.  The  religious  men  pave  way  for  clearance  at  various 
stages.  Economy  determines  the  state  of  marriage.  The  other  traits 
contribute  in  other  context. 

For  various  reasons  the  Ladakhis  consider  marrying  as  essential. 
One  consideration  is  that  when  the  parents  become  old,  they  need  addi¬ 
tional  hands  to  look  after  the  family  and  its  property.  The  requirement 
is  metwith  through  marriage.  The  second  consideration  for  marrying 
is  to  have  children  who  maintain  the  line  of  descent.  Thirdly,  the  people 
feel  that  marriage  regularise  sex  relations.  It  is  feared  that  there  would 
be  chaos  if  sex  relationship  is  not  regulated  through  marriage.  More 
men  are  married  than  the  women  and  the  trend  is  an  outcome  of  polyand- 
rouns  system.  Sometimes  the  age  of  a  husband  is  far  less  than  the  wife. 
This  again  is  attributed  to  polyandry.  When  the  eldest  brother  marries, 
the  youngest  brother,  who  has  to  share  the  same  wife,  may  be  very 
young  in  age.  Because  of  this  age-old  practice  the  Ladakhis  do  not  mind 
having  wives  older  to  them.  Even  in  monogamous  unions,  the  age  of 
the  wife,  in  most  of  the  cases,  is  higher  than  the  husband. 

Among  the  Ladakhis  the  marital  position  is  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  material  position 

SI.  • 




Number  of  persons 





































.i.  w  * 




The  percentage  of  unmarried  (50.28)  is  comparatively  high.  More 
of  them  belong  to  lower  age-group  which  is  not  okeyed  for  marrying. 
This  category  also  includes  those  who  are  dedicated  to  religion.  Being 
Lamas  and  Chomos  they  do  not  marry.  More  of  these  are  males. 

When  the  boy  attains  marriageble  age  (which  varies  from  18  to  24 
years;  child  marriage  is  avoided  because  under  difficult  conditions 
one  may  not  be  able  to  support  the  wife  at  young  age),  his  father  or 
guardian,  with  the  help  of  other  relatives,  expresses  the  choice  for  a 
particular  girl.  It  is  preferred  to  select  the  girl  from  a  family  having 
reasonably  good  social  position  and  some  landed  property.  The  selec¬ 
tion  of  the  girl  is  done  from  a  family  not  related  to  the  parents  through 
any  direct  or  indirect  kinship  bond.  The  family  may  be  from  within 
or  outside  the  village.  When  these  preconditions  are  not  locally  metwith, 
the  Ladakhis  go  to  far  off  places  to  select  the  girl.  Leh  people  may  be 
married  as  far  as  Zanskar,  Nubra,  etc.  Consideration  like  clan  exogamy 
is  missing  as  there  are  no  clans  among  Ladakhis.  The  wife’s  sister  is  a 
preferred  mate  (the  only  exception  where  already  existing  affinal  links 
are  ignored).  Families  found  connected  through  three  to  four  genera¬ 
tions  are  avoided  for  marriage.  Usually  the  families  so  connected  cor¬ 
respond  to  Gyut  which  is  always  exogamous  social  group. 

Before  contacting  the  girl’s  parents,  a  religious  specialist,  called 
Onpo  (astrologer),  is  consulted  for  the  future  prospects  of  the  match. 
Onpo  determines  whether  the  Loh  of  the  boy  and  the  girl  match  or  not. 
Loh  is  one  of  the  12  years  (Piwa,  Lung,  Tak,  Yoz,  Dug,  Dul,  Tah,  Lhuk, 
Speh,  Chah,  Khee,  Phak)  to  which  the  boy  belongs.  His  year  is  then 
compared  with  that  of  the  girl.  If  the  readings  for  the  two  are  found 
supportive  the  match  is  approved.  In  many  cases  a  written  document 
giving  terms  and  consent  for  marriage  is  prepared.  It  used  to  be  more 
popular  when  polyandry  was  the  chief  form  of  marriage.  Only  after 
getting  a  clearace  from  Onpo  the  girl’s  party  is  approached.  Boy’s 
maternal  uncle,  his  father  or  the  father’s  brother  contact  the  members  of 
the  girl’s  family.  A  few  litres  of  Chang,  a  ring  and  a  Khatak  are  carried 
along.  The  step  is  termed  as  Nhin  Chang.  The  party  members  express 
the  desire.  The  acceptance  of  Chang  and  Khatak  approves  the  proposal. 
While  putting  the  proposal,  the  boy’s  father  request  saying  Zu-Zu.  To 
start — with  the  value  of  bride-price  is  kept  high  but  it  is  decreased  to 
Rs.  300/-  to  Rs.  400/  when  requested.  At  times  the  amount  of  bride 
price  touches  thousand.  The  bride-price  is  cleared  by  giving  cash  and 
articles  like  gold,  silver,  corals,  turquois,  clothes,  goats,  sheep  etc.  The 
payment  can  be  made  in  instalments,  even  after  marriage.  Agreement 
in  reagrd  to  bride-price  and  Chang  is  written  in  the  presence  of  Goba. 
This  is,  however  not  sufficient  becuase  the  proposal  also  needs  an  approval 
of  other  close  relatives  from  both  sides.  As  a  result  the  members  of  both 
the  parties  meet  again  in  the  girls  house.  The  boy’s  party  supplies  Chang, 
butter  and  tea  to  be  used  on  the  occasion.  This  assembly  decides  that 
the  girl  would  be  spared  for  marriage.  In  some  cases  a  third  call,  accom- 



partied  by  Chang,  butter,  Our  Gur,  Khatak  etc.,  is  also  made.  On  this 
occasion,  a  ring  or  some  turquois  may  also  be  given  to  the  girl.  The 
bride-price,  if  desired,  can  be  paid  on  this  occasion.  More  the  number 
of  visits  to  girl’s  place,  more  the  Chang  they  carry.  Either  on  second  or 
third  call  the  Phasphuns  of  the  girl  as  well  as  of  the  boy  also  come  to 
participate  in  the  ceremony.  The  Phasphuns  and  others  are  treated  at 
par.  The  visit  with  Chang  is  sometimes  termed  as  Chat-Chang. 

According  to  Ladakhi  custom  if  the  girl’s  marriage  is  performed  at 
her  parental  place,  she  is  to  be  given  more  Rak-Tak  (trousseau  and 
ornaments).  But  if  the  girl  shifts  to  her  maternal  uncle’s  house  or  for 
that  matter  to  some  other  relative’s  house,  and  gets  married  there,  the 
Rak-Tak  value  is  minimised  to  a  very  large  extent.  The  very  shifting  of 
the  girl  to  a  relative’s  house  indicates  that  her  father  is  not  economically 
sound  to  afford  all  expenses  of  her  marriage.  With  this  background 
in  view,  more  of  Rak-Tak  is  not  desired. 

To  select  an  auspicious  day  for  marriage,  the  Onpo  is  again  consul¬ 
ted.  On  the  appointed  day,  the  boy’s  father,  his  relatives  and  Phasphuns 
(numbering  6  to  10  persons),  gather  to  form  the  marriage  party.  A  horse 
is  taken  along  the  party.  On  the  way  back  the  bride  rides  on  it.  Only 
one  female,  of  the  age  of  bride,  accompanies  the  marriage  party.  She, 
on  back,  guides  the  bride  and  helps  her  in  various  ways.  The  boy,  who 
is  to  be  married,  does  not  join  marriage  party.  He  stays  back  in  the 
house  and  sends  his  representative  with  the  marriage  party  to  escort  the 
bride.  The  members  of  the  marriage  party  are  known  as  Nyopas.  The 
clothes  for  the  bride,  and  Chang  for  others  are  carried  along.  They 
also  carry  raw  food  material  which  is  cooked  by  the  bride’s  people  and 
served  to  them.  The  person  who  is  sent  to  escort  the  bride  performs  all 
the  rites  which  the  real  bridegroom  would  have  done.  This  practice 
approves  that  a  female  may  be  shared  by  a  person  other  than  the  real 
husband.  It  may  be  that  the  keeping  of  a  common  wife  by  two  to  three 
brothers,  and  the  practice  of  keeping  a  Phorsak  might  have  also  origi¬ 
nated  from  this  practice.  The  system  of  polyandry  must  have  had  some 
bearing  to  the  practice  of  sending  an  escort  in  place  of  the  bride-groom. 
If  he  can  afford  the  bridegroom’s  father  gives  a  full  dress  to  every  member 
of  the  marriage  party.  Bow  and  arrow  are  also  taken  along.  The  bride’s 
relatives  close  the  door  when  the  marriage  party  reaches  there.  It  is 
opened  only  when  bridegroom’s  maternal  uncle  donates  ten  rupees. 

At  the  bride’s  house  the  members  of  the  marriage  party  dance  and 
enjoy  their  stay.  Simultaneously  the  Lamas  start  Yangup  or  Yanguk 
worship  through  the  reading  of  sacred  books  meant  for  the  occasion. 
After  sharing  the  feast  arranged  by  the  bride’s  people,  the  escort 
is  asked  to  place  a  Khatak  round  the  head  of  the  bride.  This  is 
done  on  behalf  of  the  bridegroom.  She  is  also  saked  to  go  with  the 
person  who  has  offered  her  Khatak.  This  moment  assumes  an  emotional 
shape  when  the  bride  and  her  parents  start  shedding  tears.  She  is  then 
embraced  by  various  relatives  and  friends  present  on  the  occasion.  They 



t&E  LAbAKHi 

also  pacify  her  by  giving  presents  and  Khataks  which,  add  to  her  posse¬ 
ssion.  Simultanesouly  she  is  advised  to  keep  up  the  norms  of  ideal 
behaviour  while  in  husband’s  house.  The  parents  give  her  clothes, 
utencils,  boxes,  domesticated  animals  etc.  At  the  same  time  the  bride’s 
mother  demands  for  a  Zo-Rintho  or  Ome-Rin  (price  of  milk)  from  the 
parents  of  the  bridegroom.  It  is  expressed  that  she  has  fed  her  milk 
to  the  bride  and  reared  her,  and  now  that  the  bride  is  taken  away,  her 
price  should  be  paid  for.  Her  demand  is  met  with  then  and  there.  The 
amount  of  such  compensation  is,  however,  meagre. 

Apart  from  the  worship  performed  by  the  Lamas,  the  role  of  religion 
in  marriage  is  again  marked  prior  to  the  bride’s  departure.  She  enters 
into  her  Chotkang  (worship  room  of  the  family)  and  seeks  blessing,  for 
happy  married  life,  from  gods  and  goddesses.  It  is  also  interpreted 
that  the  departing  bride  prays  for  the  welfare  and  prosperity  of  her 
parents  who  are  deprived  of  her  services.  At  the  same  time  the  final 
permission  to  leave  the  house  is  always  sought  from  the  gods  and  goddess¬ 
es  of  The  bride,  alongwith  the  marriage  party  and  her 
father  or  father’s  sister  or  maternal  uncle,  then  starts  for  the  bridegroom’s 
place.  The  time  of  departure  is  so  adjusted  that  the  bride  should  enter 
the  bridegroom’s  village  in  the  darkness  of  night.  She  should  not  enter 
into  day  time.  The  bride  either  walks  down  the  distance,  or  is  made  to 
ride  a  pony  or  horse.  These  days  they  also  travel  by  Bus  or  Truck,  if 
they  happen  to  get  one  on  the  way.  The  stay  of  marriage  party  in  bride’s 
house  depends  on  the  distance.  They  return  on  the  same  day  if  marriage 
takes  place  in  the  same  village.  If  the  distance  is  more,  the  party  returns 
on  the  next  day.  When  the  marriage  takes  place  in  two  families  of  the 
same  village,  the  bride  on  her  way  to  the  bridegroom’s  house  is  accom¬ 
panied  by  her  parents  too.  But  if  she  has  to  go  to  a  different  village  the 
father  alone  goes  with  her.  The  father  of  the  bride  keeps  on  consoling 
her  for  all  comforts  in  new  house.  At  the  same  time  he  meets  the  bride¬ 
groom.  It  is  believed  that  the  bride,  as  a  stranger,  might  bring  ill-luck 
or  misfortune  if  her  entry  is  not  marked  by  a  particular  ceremony.  Such 
a  ceremony  is  observed  when  the  bride  approaches  the  bridegroom’s  house. 
The  ceremony  is  known  as  Zab-Luk  and  its  performance  marks  the 
avoidance  of  any  misfortune  which  the  bride  might  have  carried  as  a 
stranger.  An  earthen  pot  containing  dirt,  residues  and  leftovers  of 
various  kinds  is  whirled  round  the  head  of  the  bridegroom.  This  is 
done  by  a  Lama  who  also  recites  hymns  and  murmurs  something. 
The  pot  is  then  thrown  against  a  stone  to  break  it  into  pieces.  With  such 
a  breaking,  the  misfortune,  if  any,  accompanying  the  bride,  is  kept 
away.  The  breaking  of  pot  in  the  first  instance  also  marks  a  successful 
marriage.  In  some  cases  no  pot  is  broken  but  some  Turma,  dirty  things, 
are  just  thrown.  This  also  helps  scare  away  the  ghost  or  evil  spirit. 
Zab-Luk  is  followed  by  heavy  consumption  of  Chang  accompanied  by 
brisk  dancing  and  music. 

The  next  important  event  relates  to  bride’s  relationship  with  the 



mother-in-law.  Superiority  of  mother-in-law’s  position  over  that  of 
the  daughter-in-law  is  suggested.  Right  in  the  initial  stage,  a  bride  is 
reminded  of  her  subservience.  Till  the  dance  followed  after  Zab-Luk 
is  over,  the  bride  continues  to  sit  outside  the  main  door  of  the  bridegroom’s 
house.  She  waits  for  her  mother-in-law  to  come  to  assure  her  a  good 
treatment  and  protection  in  the  new  house.  Directed  by  the  mother- 
in-law,  the  bride  ultimately  enters  into  the  house.  She  is  made  to  sit 
close  to  the  family  kitchen  and  is  later  joined  by  the  bridegroom.  When 
the  two  sit  together,  they  are  blessed  by  the  seniors  for  a  happy  and 
healthy  life.  The  Lamas  read  sacred  literature  showering  blessings  on 
the  couple.  This  worship  further  helps  avoid  ill-luck,  if  a.ny,  in  the  future 
of  the  couple.  When  this  worship,  called  Lap-Zang,  is  over  the  Lamas 
are  served  food  and  given  two  to  five  rupees  each  for  their  service.  The 
bride  and  the  bridegroom  are  made  to  dine  in  a  common  container  and 
with  a  common  spoon.  The  next  important  role  is  then  played  by  the 
man  who  escorted  the  bride  from  her  home  to  that  of  the  bridegroom. 
This  signifies  handing  over  charge  of  the  bride  to  the  bridegroom.  And 
mere  placing  a  silken  gauze  around  the  head  of  the  bridegroom  guaran¬ 
tees  the  same.  This  silken  gauze  is  termed  as  Goras.  It  is  only  on  this 
occasion  that  the  nature  of  the  marital  union,  as  to  whether  it  will  be 
monogamous  or  polyandrous,  is  decided.  In  case  the  younger  brother/s 
of  the  bridegroom  are  keen  to  share  a  common  wife,  they  need  express 
their  consent.  As  part  of  the  latter,  they  are  made  to  wear  one  Goras 
each.  The  ceremony,  in  their  case,  is  performed  by  the  man  who  escorted 
the  bride.  The  bride  does  not  object  to  her  being  shared,  as  wife,  by 
more  than  one  husband  because  she  feels  that  her  position  remains  more 
secured  with  two  or  three  husbands.  The  brothers  who  join  such  a 
wedlock  cannot  easily  backout.  Their  privilege  of  going  out  as  Magpas 
is  curtailed  and  at  the  same  time  they  cannot  marry  any  other  female 
without  the  common  wife’s  consent.  In  a  polyandrous  wedlock  the 
eldest  brother  enjoys  a  superior  position.  The  rest  remain  subservient 
to  him. 

Ways  of  acquiring  mates 

1.  Pakhton  or  Zhomson :  The  procedure  grants  liberty  to  the  boy  and 
the  girl  concerned  to  decide  about  their  union.  They  fall  in  love  with 
each  other  and  decide  to  marry.  Their  parents  may  either  come  into 
the  picture  at  a  late  stage,  or  they  may  not  at  all  be  informed  of  the 
intentions  and  acts  of  the  boy  and  the  girl.  At  times,  the  maternal  uncle 
of  the  boy,  or  the  girl  may  be  informed  of  the  development  with  the 
expectation  that  he  would  pass  on  the  news  to  the  parents.  If  need  be, 
the  maternal  uncle  of  the  boy  may  call  on  the  girl’s  parents  with  Chang 
and  other  articles  of  presentation.  This  is  done  to  pacify  their  anger, 
if  any.  The  carrying  of  Chang  may  be  repeated  if  demanded.  Other 
things  are  settled  by  offering  Khataks  to  girl’s  Gyut  members  and 



maternal  uncle.  This  is,  of  course,  done  when  the  boy  and  girl  have 
already  started  living  together  as  husband  and  wife.  With  such  a  silent 
start  of  married  life  no  bride-price  is  claimed.  During  this  procedure  of 
mate  selection  no  ceremonies  or  rituals  are  performed.  It  is  the  simplest 
method  of  marrying.  Since  the  decision  could  be  independently  taken 
by  the  concerned  boy  and  the  girl,  the  neolocal  residence  is  resorted  to. 

2.  Nama  Khyon :  This  is  the  most  popular  way  of  acquiring  mate  in 
Ladakhi  society.  At  all  stage  the  parents  of  the  boy  and  the  girl  intervene. 
The  long  procedure,  already  explained  in  the  process  of  marrying,  forms 
the  major  ingredient  of  Nama  Khyon.  As  it  is  an  arranged  marriage, 
matters  are  made  clear  in  advance  to  avoid  any  complication  at  later 
stage.  This  way  of  marrying,  poses  more  bindings  on  the  spouses 
concerned.  It  may  be  because  things  take  shape  with  the  concurrence 
of  relatives  and  other  community  members.  The  chance  of  dissolution 
of  such  marriage  is  far  less  in  comparison  to  Zhomson  where  societal 
pressure  gets  inaffective. 

Nama  Khyon  way  of  acquiring  mate  is  treated  as  orthodox  style 
involving  Onpo,  Lama  and  others.  The  Onpo,  a  kind  or  oracle,  approves 
of  the  feasibility  of  match;  the  Lamas  then  materialise  the  marriage  and 
finally  the  community  approves.  Because  of  the  more  elaborate  process 
and  involvement  of  various  kinds  of  people,  both  sacred  and  secular,  the 
marital  links  are  believed  to  remain  strong.  The  marriage  so  arranged 
has  the  least  scope  for  dissolution. 

3.  Shorshom :  When  a  marriage  does  not  materialise  through  mutual 
consent  of  the  boy  and  the  girl,  for  reason  of  resistance  from  parents,  an 
alternative  is  provided  for.  The  latter  is  also  operative  in  a  case  where  a 
boy  wants  to  marry  a  particular  girl,  but  the  latter  expresses  her  unwilling¬ 
ness.  This  alternative  is  Shorshom,  that  is,  marriage  through  elopment. 
The  boy  manages  to  run  away  with  the  girl  without  intimating  his  or 
her  parents.  They  go  to  some  new  place  and  settle  down  as  husband 
and  wife.  For  long  their  whereabouts  are  not  disclosed.  This  kind 
of  union  may  also  be  established  between  an  unmarried  man  and  a 
married  woman,  as  also  between  a  married  man  and  an  unmarried  girl. 
However,  the  frequency  of  such  alliances  is  negligible.  Generally  the 
Shorshom  is  a  feature  characterizing  two  unmarried  persons  of  opposite 
sex.  Like  Zhomson,  no  ceremonies  or  rituals  are  invloved  in  Shorshom. 
However,  when  the  parents  come  to  know  about  the  wedlock,  and  if 
both  the  parties  are  keen,  they  may  regularise  the  union  by  deciding 
upon  a  few  things.  The  bride-price  and  marriage  feasts  may  also  be 
decided  upon.  Such  regularisation  may  be  done  even  after  years  of 
married  life  of  the  couple.  In  such  an  instance  the  marriage  feast  is 
just  a  token.  At  the  same  time  no  religious  rites  mark  the  occasion. 
Only  the  couple  wear  Goras  and  say  Zu  Zu  to  the  invitees.  Next  day 
a  deputation  is  led  to  the  parents  of  abducted  one  to  say  Zu  Zu  and  to 



give  them  some  presents.  Its  acceptance  marks  their  consent.  And 
if  they  reject  the  offer  they  challenge  to  recover  the  girl  by  force. 

Some  informants  reported  that  the  Ladakhi s  also  acquire  mates 
through  exchange.  A  girl  from  family  ‘X’  gets  married  to  a  boy  of 
family  of  ‘Y’.  Then  the  family  ‘Y’  would  spare  a  girl  for  a  boy  of  family 
‘X’.  This  is  the  instance  of  direct  exchange.  There  is  yet  another  kind 
of  exchange.  When  there  are  two  girls  in  a  family  ‘A’,  and  no  boy,  and 
when  both  of  them  are  married  to  two  real  brothers  of  a  different  family, 
say  CR'  one  of  the  brothers  remains  Magpa  in  family  ‘A’.  At  the  same 
time  one  girl  from  family  ‘A’  goes  to  stay  with  her  husband  in  family  ‘B\ 
The  final  position  supports  that  a  girl  has  been  exchanged  for  a  boy. 

Forms  of  marriage 

Among  Ladakhis  there  are  a  few  forms  of  marriage.  One  cf  these 
is  Magpa  whereunder  a  boy  after  his  marriage  leaves  his  parental 
residence  and  goes  to  stay  with  the  family  of  his  wife.  This  is  largely 
resorted  to  in  the  absence  of  male  sibling  to  the  wife.  But  some  Magpa 
marriages  were  also  recorded  in  families  where  the  wives  are  having  one 
or  more  brothers.  In  latter  cases  the  Magpas  (sometimes  the  husband  who 
comes  to  live  in  wife’s  family  is  also  referred  as  Magpa)  joined  on  the 
condition  that  they  would  extend  help  in  various  agriculture  and  other 
activities.  The  Magpa  marriage  is,  otherwise,  done  with  the  view  that 
the  daughter’s  husband  would  be  helpful  in  looking  after  the  property, 
including  land  and  livestock.  At  the  same  time,  his  joining  would  keep 
up  the  house  name.  Some  informants  have  also  stated  that  when  a 
couple  is  not  blessed  with  a  son  for  many  years,  they  decide  to  keep  a 
Magpa.  Later  on,  if  the  son  is  born  to  the  couple  the  Magpa  continues 
to  stay  on.  A  Magpa  is  simply  a  caretaker  as  the  property  remains  in  the 
name  of  his  wife.  At  the  same  time,  he  will  have  no  right  in  his 
ancestral  property.  And  even  if  he  is  divorced,  he  cannot  claim  it.  If  a 
Magpa  becomes  widower,  without  having  children,  he  returns  back  to 
stay  in  his  parental  house. 

According  to  customary  law  the  daughter  would  be  the  heiress  in 
the  absence  of  son.  Under  such  circumstances  she  selects  a  landless  man 
as  her  husband.  By  virtue  of  her  being  heiress,  she  enjoys  good  position. 
She  not  only  dominates  her  husband  but  can  get  rid  of  him  without  more 
of  excuse.  In  latter  case,  she  would  be  free  to  marry  again.  Anybody 
would  like  to  marry  her  because  of  her  being  heiress.  Out  of  373  marriages 
in  300  families,  38  have  been  reported  as  of  Magpa  form. 

Although  Magpa  marriages  are  common,  the  normal  form  of 
marriage  is  Bagma.  In  Bagma  marriage  patrilocal  practice  is  the  rule. 
Neolocal  pattern  of  residence  also  exists  among  the  Ladakhis.  In  Magpa 
and  Bagma  marriages,  the  parental  consent  is  a  prerequisite.  These 
marriages  are,  therefore,  arranged  ones.  But  when  a  boy  and  a  girl, 
independent  of  parents,  take  the  decision  of  marrying  each  other,  they 



go  in  for  a  new  house.  However,  the  parents  of  such  a  couple,  who  start 
leading  a  married  life,  do  come  to  know  of  the  step.  Sometimes  the 
information  reaches  them  after  the  couple  is  blessed  with  a  child. 
Whatever  may  be  the  circumstance,  the  parents  of  such  a  couple  do 
formally  arrange,  for  marriage  ceremonies  after  getting  the  news  of 
couple’s  cohabitation.  The  parents’  approval  is  accorded  only  after 
the  formal  celebration  of  marriage. 

Residence  apart,  the  forms  of  marriage  are  also  decided  by  the  number 
of  husbands  and  wives.  The  Ladakhi  marriages  are  primarily  monoga¬ 
mous  followed,  in  order  of  popularity,  by  polyandry  and  polygyny. 
Fraternal  polyandry,  with  a  maximum  of  three  husbands,  is  more  widely 
prevalent  than  polygyny.  The  latter  is  a  rare  occurence. 

A  detailed  account  of  the  nature  and  form  of  marriages  (out  of 
373  marriages)  is  as  under. 

Table  showing  form  and  nature  of  marriages 



Nature  and  form 
of  marriage 

Number  of  cases 














The  table  reveals  that  90.08%  of  the  Ladakhi  marriages  are  mono¬ 
gamous.  The  polyandrous  marriages  being  7.77%  of  the  total  show  a 
a  declining  trend.  The  emergence  of  polygyny  is  believed  to  be  a  later 


The  Ladakhis  have  been  practising  fraternal  polyandry.  A  maximum 
of  three  men  could  be  reported  sharing  a  common  wife.  In  the  past, 
an  outsider,  other  than  the  real  brothers,  could  also  join  the  wedlock. 
Such  a  man  used  to  be  known  as  Phorsak  who  was  inducted  in  family 
by  the  common  wife.  This  was  mainly  with  the  consent  of  the  eldest 
husband.  The  man,  so  inducted  was  more  favourite  as  he  was  brought 
by  the  choice  of  the  woman  herslf.  But  in  the  present  study  of  three 
hundred  families  no  case  of  Phorsak  could  be  reported.  However, 
whenever  it  existed,  it  spoke  of  non-fraternal  polyandry  among  the 
Ladakhis.  Some  informants  have  reported  that  a  few  Bedas  still  keep 
up  the  Phorsak  practice  to  maintain  the  largeness  of  the  group.  At 
one  point  of  time  the  practice  of  Phorsak  was  prevalent  among  all  the 
Ladakhi  Buddhists.  Now  some  stray  cases  of  this  kind  are  said  to  be 
prevailing  among  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  only.  It  is  also  reported  among 

Institution  of  marriagF 


the  Dogpas.  When  a  married  Dogpa  female  gets  interested  in  someone, 
other  than  the  husband.,  she  invites  him  to  be  the  additional  husband, 
without  even  consulting  the  original  husband.  A  Phorsak,  in  general, 
is  from  the  same  social  group.  But  if  it  is  arranged  from  a  different 
ethnic  group,  the  man  has  to  change  his  ethnic  identity  as  per  that  of  the 
woman.  A  Phorsak  has  some  claim  on  the  property  of  female. 

It  is  probably  because  of  the  continuance  of  Phorsak  practice  by 
Mon,  Beda  and  Gara  that  their  social  position  has  been  lowered  down. 
But  it  may  also  be  true  that  they  are  already  being  socially  low,  they  kept 
up  the  tradition.  A  Phorsak  may  be  managed,  to  seek  sexual  satisfac¬ 
tion,  to  have  more  manpower,  to  keep  up  emotional  promise  through 
friendship  and  to  get  concieved  if  the  earlier  husband  is  incapable  of  doing 
that.  When  a  man  accepts  to  be  Phorsak,  he  leaves  his  parental  home 
and  property  to  join  at  the  new  place.  Rather,  he  ceases  to  have  claim 
on  the  parental  property.  Phorsak  can  also  be  one  who  is  already 
married.  In  that  case  he  will  have  to  leave  his  first  wife  to  join  the  second. 

According  to  Ladakhi  customary  law  when  the  eldest  brother  marries, 
the  younger  ones  can  also  share  the  wife  as  co-husbands.  There  is 
social  sanction  for  sexual  indulgence  with  the  common  wife.  As  recogni¬ 
tion  of  their  being  the  husbands  of  a  common  wife,  the  younger  brother 
like  the  eldest  one,  are  also  offered  Khataks  at  the  time  of  marriage.  But 
still  the  eldest  brother  has  more  right  over  the  female.  In  his  presence 
in  the  house  the  younger  ones  keep  away.  The  same  privillege  is  inheri¬ 
ted  by  the  next  elder  when  the  eldest  is  away.  The  children  born  of  a 
polyandrous  union  call  all  husbands  of  a  common  wife  as  father,  making 
only  a  distinction  of  elder  or  younger.  No  child  is  specifically  marked 
as  belonging  to  a  particular  husband.  But  the  eldest  husband  is  said 
to  have  more  claim.  In  normal  course  the  children  are  referred  as 
belonging  to  the  eldest  brother.  Children  are  treated  as  the  property 
of  the  husbands  and  so  are  looked  after  jointly.  What  Pran  Chopra 
observed  could  not  be  supported  by  any  of  my  informants.  Chopra 
(1964:67)  stated  that  “complications  regarding  paternal  relations  were 
forestalled  by  wise  wife  by  adopting  an  arbitrary  system  of  her  own  to 
fix  the  paternity  of  each  child.  Either  she  decided  and  declared  the 
paternity  of  the  child  before  its  birth  or  else  fathered  her  children  upon 
the  various  brothers  in  a  series  determined  by  her”.  Polyandry  is  more 
among  those  who  are  predominantly  agriculturists. 

In  polyandrous  unions  the  terms  in  respect  of  the  position  and 
privileges  of  various  husbands  are  clearly  diflned.  Out  of  all  the  brothers, 
the  eldest  one  would  be  loved  the  most  by  the  common  wife.  As  all 
husbands  are  aware  of  the  practice  they  do  not  feel  jealous  of  the  preference. 
She  spends  more  time  with  the  eldest  brother.  Her  intimacy  with  him 
is  more.  The  common  wife  is  more  responsive  to  the  eldest  husband. 
But  at  the  same  time  she  would  also  sexually  and  otherwise  satisfy  the 
younger  husbands.  At  the  same  time,  she  would,  under  the  rule,  have 
an  upper  hand  over  them.  To  them  she  may  even  behave  as  an  autho- 



ritarian.  So  long  as  they  share  her  they  cannot  marry  any  female.  If 
one  of  them  is  keen  to  marry,  he  will  have  to  seek  her  permission  through 
the  eldest  brother.  Such  rules  are  respected  but  the  avoidance  too  is 
not  taken  with  any  seriousness.  Foi  instance,  if  a  wife  starts  showing 
more  love  and  affection  to  the  younger  husband,  the  eldest  one  leaves. 
She  is  then  left  at  the  mercy  of  younger  brothers. 

Among  the  reasons,  in  support  of  polyandry,  the  following  are  more 

1.  The  inhospitable  geographic  conditions  promote  polyandrous 
system.  As  the  meagre  limited  resource  cannot  sustain  large  popu¬ 
lation,  people  adopt  the  system  as  a  check  to  population  growth. 

2.  Again,  the  difficult  conditions  enthuse  people  to  live  jointly. 
Under  the  latter  pattern  they  can  live  a  healthy  and  happy  life.  Poly¬ 
andry  provides  favourable  climate  to  joint  living  and  cooperation  needed 
to  earn  livelihood  under  harsh  conditions.  Therefore,  in  order  that 
the  family  members  can  remain  united,  the  practice  of  keeping  a  common 
wife  has  been  resorted  to.  The  polyandrous  practice  restrains  separation 
among  the  brothers. 

3.  The  Ladakhis  have  always  stressed  that  the  women  should  be 
provided,  adequate  protection  and  hence  they  are  not  to  be  left  alone. 
But  then  the  pattern  o-f  division  of  labour  among  the  Ladakhis  always 
demanded  one  or  two  men  to  go  out  with  the  flock  of  animals  for  longer 
durations.  In  summer  they  have  been  going  to  still  higher  altitude  for 
grazing  of  animals.  But  for  woman’s  protection  someone  is  to  stay 
back.  And  whosoever  stay  back  is  to  be  granted  sex  privilege.  Such 
a  system  also  favours  polyandry. 

4.  Under  the  conditions  where  agriculture  produce,  is  bare  suffi¬ 
cient  for  subsistence,  and  the  surplus  is  almost  non-existent,  the  joint 
living  through  polyandrous  union  is  prferred  because  the  running  of 
a  common  kitchen  and  sharing  other  things  in  common  piove  moic 
economical.  It  is  calculated  that  spendings  in  polyandrous  families 
are  less,  and  hence  the  practice. 

5.  Becuase  of  the  undulating  and  rocky  terrain,  the  cultivable 
patches  of  land  are  available  only  in  the  valleys.  As  the  cultivable  land 
holdings  are  small,  their  further  fragmentation  would  make  them,  econo¬ 
mically,  still  unviable.  The  Ladakhis  believe  that  one  way  to  stop 
fragmentation  of  land  is  to  go  in  for  polyandry.  When  brothers  stay 
together  in  polyandrous  union  the  land  fragmentation  will  not  be  done. 
In  the  polyandrous  system  the  brothers  remain  united  and  so  the  land 
holdings.  Rather,  it  is  looked  after  with  greater  care. 

6.  It  has  also  been  stated  that  in  comparison  to  any  other  form  of 
joint  living,  the  living  together  in  polyandrous  family  is  nore  conducive 
to  the  maintenance  of  healthy  intra-family  relations.  Because  of  the 
interest  in  common  wife,  and  with  the  eldest  brother’s  position  as 
supreme, most  of  ways  remain  in  order.  The  dependence  on  common  wife 
and  the  eldest  brother  is  of  such  an  order  that  norms-network  is  always 

mSTlTUriON  OF  marriage 


kept  intact.  The  deviations  from  the  ideal  norms  of  intra-family  beha¬ 
viour  are  rarely  marked.  An  atmosphere  of  subservience  and  coor- 
diality  marks  a  polyandrous  family.  Loyality  to  the  eldest  brother  is 
prominent  feature  of  a  polyandrous  family.  All  the  above  considera¬ 
tions  promote  the  cause  of  polyandry. 

7.  There  is  yet  another  economic  base  of  polyandrous  practice. 
The  Ladakhis  believe  that  in  polyandrous  families  the  division  of  labour 
is  possible  in  more  appropriate  form  than  in  monogamous  ones  where 
the  manpower  lacks.  More  attention,  thus,  can  be  given  to  agriculture, 
animal  husbandry  and  other  works  at  hand.  The  output,  in  general,  is 
believed  to  be  better  with  more  hands  to  attend.  Interpretations  of 
this  kind  promote  polyandry. 

8.  Lately,  the  polyandry  is  also  practised  as  continuity  of  old  custom. 
The  members  of  older  generation  persuade  their  sons  and  daughters 
to  go  in  for  polyandrous  unions. 

9.  Under  the  traditional  social  system,  a  great  importance  is  given 
to  polyandrous  families.  Such  families  were,  at  one  time  given  superior 
social  status.  Polyandrous  unions  earned  appreciation  from  one  and 
all.  As  survival  of  the  past,  some  Bhotos  continue  to  give  importance 
to  the  practice.  Such  a  support  helps  to  keep  up  the  system. 

10.  The  custom  of  polyandry  also  seeks  support  from  the  feeling 
that  it  provides  more  freedom  to  women.  While  living  in  such  wedlock 
there  is  no  chance  of  their  liberty  being  curtailed. 

11.  An  account  of  the  origin  of  polyandry  among  the  Ladakhis  also 
provides  the  reason  for  it.  Keeping  in  view  the  holistic  perspective,  it 
can  be  interpreted  that  the  polyandrous  system  originated  out  of  the 
necessity  of  adaptation  of  human  beings  to  the  most  difficult  external 
ecological  conditions.  In  the  absence  of  alien  source  of  income,  the 
indigenous  sources  were  not  found  sufficient  for  people’s  existence  (Land 
and  livestock  were  the  chief  source  on  which  the  Ladakhis  could  depend). 
Cultivable  land  has  all  through  been  limited.  For  animals,  the  grazing 
facility  and  fodder  were  again  limited.  At  the  same  time  there  was  no 
scope  for  exapansion.  Under  the  circumstances  any  fast  rise  of  popula¬ 
tion  could  never  be  supported  with  meagre  local  resource.  This  might 
have  made  Ladakhis  think  of  ways  for  curtailing  fast  population  growth. 
And  one  of  these  could  be  the  introduction  of  polyandry,  and  the  other, 
the  dedication  of  some  boys  and  girls  to  monasteries.  The  latter  had 
to  lead  a  life  of  celibacy.  It  was  calculated  that  if  all  the  brothers  in  the 
family  keep  individual  wives,  they  would  have  more  children  than  what 
they  could  have  by  keeping  one  wife  in.  common.  But  then  the  custom 
deprived  many  women  from  marrying.  These  surplus  women  could 
be  adjusted  through  Chomo  formation.  They  dedicated  the  life  to 
religion  and  could  never  get  married  under  the  norms  of  religion.  Thus, 
the  religious  institutions  helped  to  stabilise  the  system  of  polyandry.  Else 
the  surplus  females  could  become  a  probelm  in  society.  The  society 
devised  yet  another  method  to  sustain  the  system  of  polyandry.  The 




rules  of  male  primogeniture  was  introduced.  The  eldest  brother,  in 
family,  thus  alone  inherited  the  land  and  other  property.  The  rest  of  the 
brothers  had  to  depend  upon  him  for  their  livelihood.  Or  they 
could  opt  to  become  Lamas.  There  was  left  no  other  avenue  to  act 
upon.  Under  the  customary  rules  of  Ladakhi  society,  one  of  the  youn¬ 
gest  brother  had  to  become  a  Lama.  The  rest  joined  the  eldest  brother 
who  assured  their  existence.  He  allowed  them  to  share  his  wife  and 
property.  The  economic  compulsion,  created  out  of  primogniture, 
made  the  younger  brothers  join  the  eldest  brother  for  all  these  purposes. 

In  the  above  background,  some  informants  have  stated  that  the 
system  of  polyandry  was  introduced,  and  has  been  maintained  in  the 
interest  of  certain  religious  considerations.  Some  girls  were  required 
for  Gompa  to  promote  the  cause  of  religion.  The  religion  being  taken 
as  supreme  among  the  Ladakhis,  some  girls  had  always  to  be  spared  for 
the  purpose.  Such  girls  were  not  allowed  to  marry.  Because  of  diver¬ 
sion  of  a  large  number  of  girls  to  monastery  every  man  could  not  manage 
to  procure  an  independent  wife.  A  few  brothers  then  thought  of  keeping 
a  common  wife.  This  version,  of  course,  is  contrary  to  another  school 
of  thought  which  explains  that  Chomo  formation  was  given  birth  to  keep 
up  the  system  of  polyandry.  However,  from  both  the  versions  it  is  clear 
that  the  system  of  polyandry  and  the  Chomo  formation  are  inter-linked. 
Which  of  the  two  gave  rise  to  the  other  remains  a  controversy.  Cunning¬ 
ham  stated  that  the  custom  of  polyandry  has  most  probably  been  borrowed 
from  the  polyandious  Hindu  race  of  Himalayan  Kshatriyas,  among 
whom  it  has  been  preserved  for  at  least  25  centuries.  However,  nothing 
of  this  sort  was  explained  by  the  respondents. 

It  has  been  reported  that  polyandry  is  towards  decline  for  various 
reasons.  The  government  legislation  against  polyandry  has  had  its  own 
impact.  With  this,  the  supporters  of  polyandry  had  to  be  a  bit  quite. 
Being  law-abiding,  some  Ladakhis  extended  respectablity  to  the  legis¬ 
lation.  The  process  of  decline  got  further  impetus  when  the  law  of 
primogeniture  got  a  setback.  The  inheritance  has  lately  been  on  equal 
basis.  As  such  younger  brothers  need  not  necessarily  depend  on  the 
land  and  property  inherited  by  the  eldest.  They  can  have  their  own 
share.  An  anti-polyandry  climax  was  further  generated  by  the  new 
avenues  of  economic  independence.  In  the  post-Indian  independence 
era,  there  has  been  a  rapid  expanxion  of  job  opportunities  in  Ladakh. 
By  now  there  are  ample  opportunities  of  earning  for  men  as  well  as  the 
women.  The  growing  economic  independence  has  adversely  reacted 
to  the  practice  of  polyandry.  Ladakhis  contact  with  outsiders  also  led 
to  the  decline  of  polyandry.  The  persons  who  did  not  know  of  polyandry, 
and  who  got  posted  in  Ladakh  from  other  parts  of  the  country,  deplored 
and  condemned  the  custom.  The  outsiders  viewed  Ladakhi  polyandry 
from  their  own  cultural  background  and  found  it  outrightly  immoral 
and  disgraceful.  Their  view  point,  in  this  regard,  was  even  communi¬ 
cated  to  the  local  population.  Under  the  circumstances  some  of  the 



Ladakhis  planned  to  do  away  with  the  custom.  Under  the  influence 
of  outsiders,  they  have  already  started  speaking  ill  of  the  custom. 

The  rapid  expansion  fo  formal  education  has  indirectly  led  to  the 
conditions  unfavourable  to  polyandry.  When  the  educated  Ladakhis 
got  into  regular  employment,  they  preferred  to  keep  their  independent 
wives,  rather  than  sharing  a  common  one.  At  the  same  time  some  of 
those  who  got  posted  to  distant  places  preferred  to  keep  their  wives  with 
them.  A  common  wife  could  not  meet  the  new  requirement.  Among 
the  educated  lot  there  is  an  increasing  realisation  that  polyandry  is  not 
a  good  custom  and  that  it  should  be  done  away  with.  Another  trend 
which  went  against  polyandry  and  has  become  more  prominent  during 
the  last  two  decades  is  the  decline  in  the  number  of  Chomos.  At  one 
time,  the  Chomos,  in  large  numbers,  used  to  tay  in  the  Gompa  campus. 
But  lately  the  practice  has,  to  a  great  deal,  discontinued.  A  few  of  the 
Chomos  are  still  associated  with  monasteries  but  they,  in  general,  stay  in 
their  respective  families.  The  decrease  in  Chomo  formation  could  help 
spare  more  girls  for  marriage  purpose.  This  encouraged  the  trend  to 
monogamous  marraiges. 


In  normal  coruse  the  polygyny  is  discouraged.  However,  the  ele¬ 
ments  of  compulsion  and  coincidence  give  rise  to  the  practice.  For 
instance,  when  a  married  couple  has  two  daughters  and  no  son,  a  Magpa 
is  managed  for  the  eldest  daughter.  At  times  it  so  happens  that  the 
younger  sister  opts  to  stay  on  with  elder  one  and  the  Magpa.  The 
Magpa  and  his  wife’s  younger  sister  do  not  get  formally  married  but 
they  live  like  husband  and  wife.  The  two  sisters  develop  understanding 
and  compromise  in  regard  to  a  common  man.  They  agree  to  divide  the 
work  and  continue  to  share  the  same  house.  This  form  of  cohabi¬ 
tation  comes  up  when  Magpa  and  his  wife’s  youger  sister  develop  liking 
for  each  other.  Others  do  not  take  the  relationship  with  any  seriousness. 
In  order  that  her  work  may  be  shared,  the  elder  sister  herself,  at  times, 
wants  to  retain  her  younger  sister  with  her.  And  the  latter  is  tolerated 
even  when  she  develops  sexual  relations  with  the  former’s  husband.  The 
arrangement  looks  like  concubine  system  than  polygyny  because  the 
relationship  is  not  socially  and  formally  recognised  through  marriage. 

A  compulsion  to  go  in  for  polygyny  arises  when  the  first  wife  proves 
barren.  When  a  woman  fails  to  beget  child  her  husband  decides  to 
marrry  again.  The  first  wife  approves  the  poposal,  and  at  the  same  time 
continues  to  stay  in  the  same  house.  The  second  wife  is  procured  through 
regular  marriage  recognised  by  the  village  community.  In  Ladakhi  society, 
the  cases  of  polygyny  are  stray  because  the  need  for  child  is  mainly  met 
through  adoption  rather  than  by  having  an  additional  wife.  Even  other¬ 
wise  the  Ladakhis  discourage  polygyny.  For  second  marriage,  if  at 
all  it  is  to  be  done,  a  man  prefers  his  wife’s  sister.  The  latter’s  parents 



express  hesitation  but  ultimately  agree  when  they  are  requested  again  and 
again.  An  interesting  case,  where  a  man  is  keeping  two  wives  at  two 
different  places  and  managing  both,  was  reported  from  Thiksay.  The 
man  ‘X’,  aged  about  42  and  employed  in  Central  Reserve  Police  was 
initially  married  to  Sonam  Chhoskit.  From  this  wife  he  had  three 
daughters.  But  while  posted  at  Leh,  he  arranged  for  another  wife, 
though  not  through  regular  marriage.  The  second  wife  was  kept  some 
twelve  years  back.  Now  the  man  attends  to  both  the  wives  living  at 
different  places.  With  intervals  of  time  he  has  arranged  to  stay  with 

Endogamy  and  exogamy 

The  Ladakhis  are  endogamous  within  their  ethnic  group.  They 
do  not,  udner  normal  conditions,  marry  with  Mon,  Gara,  Beda  and  others 
including  the  Muslim  and  the  Hindu  population  around.  Some  cases 
of  unions  with  the  members  of  other  religious  groups  could  be  reported, 
but  such  alliances  have  no  background  of  any  regular  marriage  perfor¬ 
mance.  In  fact  polyandry  paved  way  for  freedom  to  women,  some  of 
whom  fell  to  the  men  of  other  religions.  Such  unions  are  taken  for 
granted  and  none  attaches  seriousness  to  them.  Ghulam  Ali,  born  of 
Muslim  father  and  a  Buddhist  mother,  and  a  resident  of  Spituk  remained 
Muslim  for  about  40  years  in  his  early  life.  He  then  had  a  Muslim  wife. 
Ghulam  Ali  is  now  about  90  years  old.  About  50  years  back  he  married, 
second  time,  a  Ladakhi  girl.  This  made  him  adopt  Buddhism  and  change 
his  name  from  Ghulam  Ali  to  Punchok  Neema.  At  the  same  time  he  was 
alloted  some  cultivable  land  on  behalf  of  Spituk  Gompa.  Now  his  son, 
Anchuk,  is  a  Buddhist  and  has  married  a  Ladakhi  girl  from  Leh.  Among 
the  Ladakhi  population  the  existence  of  inter-religion  marriages  can  be 
traced  back  to  centuries.  The  ancient  trade  route  through  Ladakh 
created  favourable  conditions  for  this  kind  of  marriages.  And  such 
marriages  have  always  been  tolerated.  The  Muslim  always  married  the 
Ladakhi  females.  No  case  could  be  reported  where  any  Muslim  girl 
married  Ladakhis.  The  Christian  Ladakhis  do  not  hesitate  marrying  non- 
Christian  Ladakhis.  For  such  practices,  one  can  find,  in  the  same  family, 
persons  belonging  to  different  religious  faiths.  They  share  a  common 
household.  Some  cases  prove  that  even  after  marriage,  the  husband 
and  wife  continue  to  belong  to  different  religion.  This  is  attributed  to 
Buddhism  being  tolerant,  non-coercive  and  assimilative.. 

Lately,  the  incidence  of  marriages  between  the  Ladakhi  Buddhists 
and  the  Hindus  from  plain  India  have  also  been  reported.  It  came  up 
because  of  a  large  influx  of  Hindu  population.  Some  of  the  Ladakhi 
females  developed  friendship  with  outsiders  who  poured  in  Ladakh 
through  services.  Such  relations  either  materialised  into  marriage  or 
promoted  temporary  marriage.  In  former  case  the  non-Ladakhis  brought 
their  wives  even  to  plain  India  after  their  tenure  of  stay  in  Ladakh  was 



over.  But  in  later  case,  the  girls  were  temporarily  used  as  wives  and  later 
deserted  when  the  husbands  left  Ladakh.  A  case  of  the  latter  kind  could 
be  reported  from  Spituk.  Dorje  Dolma  of  Spituk  developed  love  affairs 
with  an  army  Jawan  ‘X’  posted  around  the  village.  Subsequently  Dolma 
and  ‘X’  got  married.  For  two  years  they  lived  as  husband  and  wife  and 
were  blessed  with  a  daughter.  She  is  now  four  years  o]d.  Then  ‘X’  was 
transferred  to  a  place  outside  Ladakh.  He  left  the  place  without  infor¬ 
ming  Dolma.  She  is  now  living  in  a  miserable  condition  with  her  four 
years  old  child.  Whereabouts  of  the  husband  are  not  known  to  her  and 
Dolma  being  simple  and  ignorant,  does  not  try  to  bother  for  the  same. 
The  daughter  does  not  have  typical  Mongoloid  features  and  instead 
resembles  Dravidian  stock.  Some  informants  have  stated  that  Dolma’s 
husband  was  some  South  Indian.  Dolma  is  not  having  any  house  or  land 
of  her  own.  She  now  helps  Narbu  in  his  agriculture  activities.  Narbu 
has  obliged  her  by  giving  a  room  in  his  house. 

Ladakhis  practise  endogamy  as  well  as  exogamy.  Village  exogamy 
is  resorted  to  only  when  no  suitable  girl  meeting  various  requirements,  is 
available  in  the  village.  Village  exogamy  is  also  observed  when  a  family 
fails  to  find  another  family  of  almost  an  equal  economic  standing  within 
the  village.  For  exogamy,  no  area  limit  is  prescribed.  Instances  could 
be  reported  where  Ladakhis  have  married  in  places  as  far  as  200  kilometres. 

Out  of  373  marriages,  the  account  of  exogamous  and  endogamous 
ones  is  as  given  below. 

Table  showing  the  instance  of  exogamous  and  endogamous  marriages 

SI.  No. 

Form  of  marriage 

Number  of  cases 








‘  220 


The  table  reveals  that  the  cases  of  exogamy  are  more.  And  hence 
it  may  be  interpreted  that  pre-requisites  for  mate  selection  are  largely  not 
fulfilled  at  village  level.  And  58.98%  of  the  males  had  to  bank  upon 
girls  from  outside  the  village.  People,  thus,  maintain  social  system 
requirements  in  spite  of  hostile  ecological  conditions. 

The  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  have  to  mostly  resort  to  village  exogamy. 
This  is  because  they  have  only  one  or  two  families  in  every  village.  As 
such  it  is  difficult  for  them  to  find  mate  within  the  village.  In  their  case 
the  area  for  exogamy  is  still  wider. 

Pre  and  extra-marital  relations 

The  respondents  state  that  there  is  no  open  sanction  for  pre-marital 
sex  relations.  But  at  the  same  time  there  do  not  exist  more  of  objections 



against  it.  Tremendous  amount  of  freedom  is  enjoyed  by  the  members 
of  both  the  sexes.  Instances  of  sex  laxity  are  not  taken  up  seriously. 
With  free  ways  the  element  of  privacy  is  not  that  prominent.  They  mix 
freely  and  cut  all  sorts  of  jokes.  All  can  eat,  drink  sing  and  dance  to¬ 
gether.  Sex  has  not  been  given  a  wider  sanctity  .Under  such  conditions 
more  cases  of  sex  laxity  are  heard  of. 

A  comparatively  more  freedom  of  sex  may  again  be  attributed  to 
polyandrous  system.  Polyandry  apart,  another  strong  cause  which  did 
not  allow  formation  of  more  strict  sex  norms  is  related  to  extreme  winter. 
The  Ladakhis  themeselves  are  of  the  opinion  that  they  feel  less  sex  urge 
because  of  the  extremely  cold  climate.  Under  the  circumstances  it  was 
not  desired  to  enforce  strict  norms  of  conduct  in  respect  of  sex.  But 
in  the  absence  of  strict  norms,  in  respect  of  sex,  frequent  cases  of  indul¬ 
gence,  outside  the  wedlock  are  heard  of.  Many  of  the  unmarried  Ladakhi 
girls  secretly  develop  sexual  intimacy  with  the  men.  And  their  relations 
get  known  only  when  they  come  to  the  surfce.  However,  most  of  the 
cases  are  taken  up  supportively.  They  are  finally  made  to  materialise 
into  marriage.  Some  of  the  girls  get  pregnant  and  beget  children  in  the 
premarital  stage.  The  concerned  parents  bring  it  to  the  notice  of  Goba, 
his  assistants  and  other  elderly  people.  The  man  who  caused  pregnancy 
is  then  produced  before  the  council.  He  is  either  asked  to  marry  or  pay 
compensation  in  lieu  of.  The  latter  involves  payment  of  goat,  sheep 
and  money.  If  the  man  held  responsible  is  already  married,  he  is  asked 
to  pay  Rs.  50/-  to  Rs.60/-  as  compensation.  And  if  somebody  is  keen  to 
keep  her  as  wife,  he  can  do  so  but  not  through  regular  marriage.  The 
girl  ‘X’,  daughter  of  Chhewang  Ishe,  and  now  nearly  30  years  old,  deve¬ 
loped  sexual  relations  with  Ghatuk  prior  to  her  marriage.  The  man  was 
already  married  to  someone  else.  Consequently,  the  girl  got  concieved 
and  gave  birth  to  a  son.  She  was  then  interrogated  by  Chhewang  Ishe 
who  later  reported  the  matter  to  Goba.  Ghatuk  was  asked  to  appear 
before  the  village  council.  He  accepted  his  fatherhood  but  could  not 
marry  to  Chhewang’ s  daughter  as  he  was  already  marriaed.  As  such  he 
was  asked  to  give  compensation  which  he  arranged.  The  unmarried 
mother  did  not  agree  to  marry  someone  else.  She,  alongwith  her  illegiti¬ 
mate  son,  continues  to  stay  with  her  father. 

It  has  also  been  reported  that  some  women  maintain  extra-marital 
relations,  though  it  is  largely  objected  to.  It  starts  from  within  the  family 
under  the  rules  of  fraternal  polyandry.  All  brothers  are  allowed  to  have 
sexual  relations  with  a  common  female.  Where  a  union  has  not  been 
declared  as  polyandrous  and  only  one,  out  of  two  or  three  brothers  marries 
the  other  may  also  have  access  to  the  female  for  sexual  gratification. 
The  act  is  hardly  objected  to.  Some  women  even  go  beyond  the  husband’s 
brothers.  This  is  most  likely  the  aftereffect  of  the  old  practice  of  keeping 
Phorsak.  The  customs  of  fraternal  polyandry  and  the  Phorsak,  so 
popular  in  the  past,  have  had  their  contribution  in  according  freedom  to 
sex.  Because  of  higher  proportion  of  females,  polyandry  system  and 

Institution  of  marriage 


dedication  of  girls  to  Gompa,  some  girls  remain  unmarried.  And  it  is 
out  of  them  that  some  develop  sexual  relations.  When  the  cases  of 
extra-marital  relations  are  reported  to  Goba  and  other  members  of  his 
council,  they  are  resolved  through  declaring  divorce,  desertion  or  sepa¬ 
ration,  depending  upon  the  severity  of  case.  There  are  other  serious 
implications  and  cases  come  to  an  end  quitely.  But  sometimes  no  proper 
arrangement  is  made.  In  Kuyul,  a  girl  ‘X’  gave  birth  to  a  child  even 
before  her  marriage.  The  man  responsible  failed  to  marry  her.  And 
now  she  is  living  alone  with  her  child.  In  another  case  a  man  married 
a  girl  having  an  illegitimate  child.  The  man  did  not  mind  her  having  a 
child  and  they  both  are  living  happily  in  the  same  house.  The  cases  of 
pre  and  post-marital  relations  are  generally  ignored  or  taken  leniently. 
On  the  ground  of  pre  or  extra-marital  relations,  no  Ladakhi  has  ever 
been  socially  boycoted.  Rather,  the  Ladakhis  tolerate  the  happening. 
Even  when  a  Ladakhi  girl  develops  premarital  sex  relations  with  a  Muslim 
and  later  on  gets  married  to  him,  she  continues  to  visit  her  parental 
home  whenever  feels  like,  The  parents  just  overlook  the  past  happening. 
They  even  render  help  in  adverse  circumstances  which  might  crop  up 
from  premarital  sex  ralations.  The  frequency  of  extramarital  relations 
is  comparatively  less.  These  are  normally  contracted  when  either  of 
the  couple  stays  away  for  a  long  time. 

As  the  norms  in  regard  to  sex  are  not  very  strict  some  religious  persons 
also  find  easy  to  get  wives.  In  Ladakhi  society  the  Lama  and  the  Chomo, 
under  religious  demand,  are  not  allowed  to  marry.  They  are  supposed  to 
lead  a  life  of  celibacy.  But  Ishe  Gylchan  got  married  after  staying  in 
Tibet,  as  Lama,  for  nearly  21  years.  In  the  latter  stage,  he  was  Lama  in 
Spituk  Gompa.  At  the  age  of  about  38  he  decided  to  marry.  Ishe 
ceased  to  be  a  Lama  from  the  day  he  got  married.  Now  he  is  living 
with  his  wife  and  two  sons.  Though  Ishe  ceased  to  be  a  Lama  he  continues 
to  have  a  better  social  status  in  comparison  to  other  oridinary  married 

Divorce  and  remarriage 

Members  of  both  the  sexes  are  free  to  divorce.  No  ritual  is  to  be 
performed  while  declaring  a  divorce.  The  change  of  religion,  by  any  of 
the  spouse,  provocation  by  someone,  abusing  and  beating,  non-industri- 
ous  nature,  extra-marital  relations,  stealing,  infidelity,  adultery,  impor- 
tency,  barrenness  and  inadequate  protection  to  wife,  especially  for  food 
and  dress,  can  give  rise  to  divorce  situation.  Among  the  Ladakhis  the 
separation  and  desertion  are  revocable.  But  the  divorce,  in  all  the  cases, 
is  irrevocable.  As  the  sex  inhibitions  are  not  many,  the  cases  of  divorce 
are  comparatively  more.  As  soon  as  the  husband,  or  the  wife  develop 
sexual  intimacy  outside  the  wedlock,  step  may  be  taken  to  dissolve  the 
union.  Tsering  Tashi  of  Bemkar  section  in  Kuyul  is  a  man  of  about  38 
years  of  age.  He  can  read  Bodhi  and  can  speak  Hindi.  He  is  living  in 


THfc  LAtfAKltl 

a  small  tent  with  his  two  Sons  (one  from  first  wife)  and  a  32  years  old 
second  wife.  He  has  visited  Delhi,  Calcutta,  Kulu,  Lucknow  and  Kalim- 
pong  on  a  religious  mission.  Tashi  was  divorced  by  his  first  wife  under 
very  peculiar  circumstances.  Tsering’s  father,  Sonam  Dorje,  lived  in 
Sabu.  Later  on  he  shifted  to  Rapsu.  When  Tsering  was  19  years  of 
age,  he  was  married  to  Rigzin  Dolma  of  Sabu.  Rigzin  used  to  sell  Chang 
in  Leh.  The  couple  then  stayed  in  Leh  for  about  5  years.  In  the  mean¬ 
time  they  were  blessed  with  a  son.  When  the  son  was  about  3  years  old, 
Tashi  went  to  Manali  in  search  of  employment,  and  was  continously  out 
for  about  6  months.  During  his  absence,  Dolma  fell  in  love  with  Dilden, 
a  sepoy  in  Ladakh  Scouts,  and  started  living  in  his  house  as  his  wife. 
Tashi,  after  his  return,  did  not  find  his  wife  in  the  house  and  came  to  know 
of  the  development.  When  approached,  she  refused  to  come  to  Tashi 
and  declared  divorce.  No  assembly  was  requisitioned  for  the  purpose. 
She  handed  over  the  son  to  Tashi  who  left  Leh  and  came  to  settle  in  Kuyul. 
He  then  got  married  to  Sonam  Wangmo.  Tashi  has  a  two  years  old  son 
from  the  new  union.  The  son  from  the  former  wife  continues  to  stay 
with  him.  All  connections  with  the  first  wife  have  been  served. 

It  may,  however,  be  mentioned  that  in  normal  case  of  divorce,  the 
Goba  is  usually  approached.  The  case  is  put  up  before  him.  He  tries 
to  resolve  the  matter.  But  when  he  fails,  he  decides  for  compensation. 
If  a  case  is  not  brought  to  Goba,  and  when  both  the  parties  are  not 
interested  in  any  move,  the  divorce  materialises  of  its  own  without  invi¬ 
ting  attention  of  the  community.  The  children,  after  divorce,  normally 
stay  with  the  father.  When  the  divorced  woman,  having  children, 
remarries,  her  children  stay  with  her  parent.  The  second  husband  does 
not  normally  accept  them.  The  children,  in  most  of  the  cases,  are  treated 
as  the  liability  of  the  father. 

Even  in  polyandrous  union  there  is  provision  for  divorce.  When 
any  of  the  husbands  feels  that  he  cannot  pull  on  well  in  a  common  wed¬ 
lock,  he  can  easily  back  out.  Likewise  if  a  common  wife  does  not,  for 
various  reasons,  like  to  remain  wife  to  any  of  the  husbands,  she  can 
easily  delcare  her  intentions  and  seek  divorce  from  that  particular  indivi¬ 
dual.  The  divorced  one  can  remarry,  if  so  desired.  Whenever  the 
eldest  brother,  in  a  polyandrous  family,  divorces  his  wife,  he  does  transfer 
her  charge  to  the  next  eldest.  But  in  such  cases  there  has  also  been 
granted  freedom  to  the  common  wife.  On  being  divorced  by  the  eldest 
husband,  she  may  or  may  not  like  to  remain  as  the  wife  of  the  younger  one. 
If  keen,  she  can  easily  say  good-bye  to  them.  It  is  not  an  obligation  that 
she  must  stay  as  the  wife  of  the  younger  brother.  The  informants  from 
Spituk  have  cited  a  case  in  this  context.  Norbu’s  daughter  ‘X’  was 
married  to  a  Bhoto  engineer,  a  resident  of  Leh.  It  was  a  polyandrous 
marriage  because  two  younger  brothers  of  engineer  aiso  joined  the  union 
as  husbands  of  ‘X’.  Norbu’s  daughter  is  uneducated  but  could  be 
married  to  the  engineer  because  of  her  rich  family.  From  this  polyand¬ 
rous  union, ‘X’  got  two  kids.  But  then  the  engineer  decided  to  divorce ‘X’, 



and  pass  her  on  to  his  younger  brother,  who  was  already  a  husband 
and  was  uneducated.  The  engineer  left  ‘X’  becuase  she  could  not  meet 
the  requirement  to  his  status.  He  also  realised  that  being  an  engineer 
he  could  get  a  better  and  educated  wife.  The  wife  ‘X’  did  not  appreciate 
the  step  taken  by  her  enginner  husband.  She  expressed  her  intention 
of  not  staying,  as  wife,  with  the  younger  brothers  of  the  engineer.  Leav¬ 
ing  all  she  came  to  live  with  her  parents,  alongwith  her  two  children. 

When  a  person  is  divorced  the  arrangement  for  compensation,  as 
decided  by  the  Goba  and  others,  is  made.  In  the  past  when  a  husband 
was  divorced  he  was  normally  given  a  horse  as  compensation.  But  when 
a  wife  was  divorced  she  was  given  a  cow.  Lately,  the  Thuskang  (com¬ 
pensation)  value  is  mostly  assessed  in  cash  rather  than  in  kind.  In  most 
of  the  cases  the  compensation  value  ranges  from  Rs.  300/-  to  Rs.  500/- 
Some  of  the  informants  have  reported  that  the  amount  of  compensation 
can  be  as  high  as  Rs.  1000/-.  The  frequency  of  divorce  cases  has  declined 
becuase  of  the  increasing  value  of  Thuskang.  In  case  a  couple  has 
children  and  then  the  wife  is  divorced,  she  is  given  a  nominal  compen¬ 
sation.  It  is  normally  less  than  half  of  what  it  could  have  been  prior  to 
her  becoming  a  mother.  This  is  because  the  children  stay  back  with  the 
father  who  rears  them.  No  Thuskang  is  given  to  either  of  the  couple 
when  they  declare  divorce  with  mutual  consent.  When  one  of  the 
married  partners  quietly  leaves  the  wedlock  and  starts  living  with  some¬ 
one  else,  he  or  she  has  to  compensate.  This  happens  provided  the  where¬ 
abouts  of  the  person  are  known. 

Remarriage  in  case  of  widows  is  permitted.  The  practice  of  levirate 
is  existing  among  the  Ladakhis.  It  is  reported  in  junior  as  well  as  the 
senior  levirate  forms.  The  system  has  its  root  in  polyandry.  On  the 
death  of  first  husband,  in  a  polyandruos  union,  the  widow  is  automatically 
inherited  by  the  next  one,  without  involving  any  ceremony.  But  she 
has  been  given  a  choice.  If  she  is  not  keen  to  remain  as  a  wife  to  other 
brothers,  or  if  younger  brothers  are  not  keen  to  keep  her  as  wife,  she 
does  stay  on  in  family  but  not  as  wife.  Shrub- Zhing,  a  piece  of  land  for 
her  maintenance,  is  separated  in  her  name.  A  widow  can  go  for  Magpa 
as  well  as  Bagma  forms  of  marriage.  But  in  more  of  the  cases,  it  is 
Magpa  form.  As  the  widow  inherits  her  deceased  husband’s  property, 
the  new  husband  joins  and  takes  charge  of  it.  When  a  widow  goes  for 
Bagma  marriage,  she  discontinues  her  claim  on  the  property  of  her  decea¬ 
sed  husband.  The  latter’s  brothers  distribute  it  among  themselves.  There 
is  thus,  full  recognition  to  widow  marriage,  and  her  unchastity  does  not 
become  a  bar  in  it.  In  most  of  the  cases  of  remarriage  the  consent  of 
the  relatives  of  deceased  husband  is  sought.  The  treatment  given  to  a 
widow,  without  children,  is  slightly  different.  An  issueless  widow  does 
not  normally  stay  in  her  husband’s  house.  Rather,  she  goes  back  to 
live  with  her  parents.  The  Rak-Tak,  given  in  her  marriage,  is  also  carried 
along.  She  can  then,  remarry  to  someone.  But  such  a  marriage  is 
simple,  devoid  of  any  dance.  A  widow,  with  children,  does  not  return 




to  her  parents.  She  may  not  even  remarry,  and  stay  as  such.  Or, 
she  can  also  marry,  if  so  desired,  to  any  of  the  deceased  husband’s 


Status  of  Woman 

The  Ladakhi  women  enjoy  a  great  deal  of  freedom.  The  constraints 
on  social  liberty  do  not  appear  to  be  suppressive.  The  social  participation 
of  a  woman  does  not  pose  for  any  significant  social  disability.  Dis¬ 
qualifications  on  the  basis  of  feminity  do  not  mark  the  scene  of  social 
participation.  Women  are  nor  secluded,  they  have  no  Purdah  (veiling 
of  face)  and  freely  consume  Chang  and  Gur  Gur  in  the  company  of 
menfolk.  Men  and  women  dance  together.  Kinship  prescriptions  do 
not  debar  them.  No  disparity  marks  the  celebration  of  male  and  female 
births.  The  rites  and  ceremonies  are  almost  common  to  both.  Members 
from  both  the  sexes  can  be  adopted,  though  people  prefer  to  adopt  a  male. 

The  institution  of  polyandry  helped  pave  way  to  woman’s  freedom. 
The  Ladakhis  did  support  polyandry  and  its  utility.  Because  of  the 
custom  of  polyandry  a  woman  was  never  under-rated.  But  at  the 
same  time  the  surplus  females  (those  who  could  not  marry  for  reasons  of 
polyandry),  and  especially  those  who  could  not  be  given  protection  by 
the  Gompas,  chose  to  either  marry  the  outsiders  (especially  the  Muslims) 
or  adopted  Chang-selling  and  immoral  practice,  as  their  profession. 
For  latter  business  some  even  went  outside  Ladakh.  In  this  context 
a  case  from  Kuyul  is  worth  mentioning.  At  the  age  of  twenty  a  female 
‘X’  got  into  immoral  traffic.  At  the  same  time  she  strated  selling  woollen 
socks  and  pull-overs.  The  ‘X’  led  this  kind  of  life  for  over  eighteen  years 
staying  at  Delhi,  Lucknow,  Simla,  G?.uhati,  Banaras  and  Nepal.  During 
the  course  of  her  transactions  and  encounters  ‘X’  picked  up  Hindi, 
Assamese  and  Gorkhale  in  addition  to  Bodhi,  her  mother-tongue.  Lately, 
she  has  returned  back  to  Kuyul.  She  lives  in  a  tent  adjoining  to  her 
brother’s  permanent  and  double-storeyed  house.  Now  Chang-selling 
is  her  main  occupation.  She  entertains  Ladakhis  as  well  as  the  non- 
Ladakhis.  Because  of  her  stay  outside  Ladakh,  she  has  picked  up  some 
etiquettes  suiting  to  outsiders.  Her  living  is  neat  and  clean.  She  wears 
wrist  watch  and  good  clothes.  Her  belongings  are  not  many  but  what¬ 
ever  she  has  is  of  a  superior  quality,  resembling  that  used  by  urban  dwe¬ 
llers  of  plain  India.  Besides  golden  bangles,  cosmetics  are  her  prized 
possessions.  Her  world-view  and  understanding  are  better  than  other 
Ladakhis  around.  With  high  aspirations  she  comes  forward  with 
bundle  of  demands  when  persons  in  position  happen  to  meet 
her.  But  still  the  Ladakhis  of  Kuyul  have  no  regard  for  ‘X’.  She 



is  looked  down  upon  and  is  assigned  a  lower  status  in  comparison  to 
other  females.  Such  a  rating  is  attributed  to  her  past  history  as  well 
as  present  indulgence. 

In  the  family  a  woman  enjoys  a  privileged  position.  The  family 
and  kinship  usages  do  not  burden  her  with  extra  taboos  and  imposi¬ 
tions.  She  has,  more  or  less,  those  restrictions  which  are  applicable 
to  men  too.  In  inter-personal  relations  in  the  intra-family  situation, 
the  role  sphere  of  woman  is  almost  at  par  with  the  man.  That  the  woman 
is  segregated  on  the  basis  of  her  being  unclean  or  polluted  does  not  hold 
true.  In  the  arena  of  competence  the  woman  is  not  considered  inferior 
to  man.  Apart  from  her  being  physically  strong  she  is  also  considered 
intelligent.  The  Ladakhis  depend  upon  the  woman  for  her  capacity 
and  capability  as  manager  of  the  house.  The  woman’s  place  in  family 
is  important,  and  it  is  more  so  in  case  of  a  polyandrous  family.  Most 
of  the  family  interests,  in  case  of  the  latter,  revolve  around  her.  Her 
position  in  polyandrous  family  is  not  only  more  secured  but  prominent 
too.  She  commands  more  respect  and  her  will  prevails  upon  the  co- 
husbands.  The  junior  husba.nds  are,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  totally  submi¬ 
ssive  to  her,  as  also  to  the  eldest  husband  of  the  common  wife.  A  wife’s 
influence  is  much  augmented  under  the  polyandrous  system.  In  poly¬ 
androus  living  the  wife’s  position  is  that  of  a  master  in  the  house. 

In  addition  to  the  custom  of  polyandry  the  religion  has  had  its  own 
contribution  in  elevating  the  woman’s  status.  Ladakhi  Buddhism  has, 
at  no  stage,  debarred  the  woman’s  participation  in  various  rituals  and 
ceremonies.  The  woman  have  also  been  admitted  in  the  religious  order. 
Their  placement,  equivalent  to  Lama,  in  religious  order  is  approved  by 
the  religion.  The  underlying  argument  is  that  Lord  Buddha  permitted 
females  in  the  religious  order.  Chomo  formation  is  prevalent  since  time 
immemorial.  The  hierarchy  of  Chomos  as  in  case  of  Lamas,  is  defined. 
Members  of  both  the  sexes  are  permitted  to  dedicate  their  life  to  Gompa. 
But  then  the  Chomo  cannot  become  a  Kushok.  The  position  of  Kushok 
is  always  reserved  for  man  only.  There  are  Chomos  with  high  positions. 
But  they  do  not  enjoy  the  same  powers  as  their  counterpart,  the  Lamas, 
do.  Religious  affairs  are  largely  managed  by  the  Lamas,  though  the 
women  can  participate  in  the  same.  Reading  of  sacred  literature,  an 
integral  part  of  Ladakhi  style  of  worship,  is  mostly  done  by  the  Lamas. 
The  higher  status  of  Chomo  is  recognised  but  then  its  display  in  day-to- 
day  life  is  at  a  lesser  scale,  specially  when  compared  to  Lamas.  However, 
in  the  sphere  of  religious  service  there  is  not  much  of  disparity  between, 
the  Lamas  and  the  Chomos.  The  Chomos  make  all  sorts  of  offerings 
in  Gompa  as  well  as  Chotkang.  They  can  touch  the  things  and  replace 
the  offerings.  Some  of  the  services  are  more  specifically  marked  for 
women.  For  instance  Nagan-Nes  (Nyam-Ne)  and  Nyung-Nes  (Nyung- 
Ne)  are  the  services  rendered  on  the  auspicious  days,  that  is,  on  8th, 
15th  and  last  day  of  each  month.  These  services  mainly  involve  women¬ 
folk  whether  they  are  Chomos  or  not.  In  course  of  Nagan-Nes,  the 



woman  takes  only  one  meal  a  day.  But  during  Nyung-Nes  she  keeps 
complete  fast.  The  women  attend  the  monastic  fairs  and  see  the  dances. 
They  can  observe  archery  competition  but  they  do  not  compete  for  the 
same.  Polo  is  played  only  by  the  men.  Except  in  religious  dances,  the 
women  can,  on  equal  basis,  participate  with  men  in  dancing  and  singing. 

In  spite  of  a  substantial  functional  contribution  of  the  woman,  and 
a  considerable  amount  of  freedom  given  to  her,  a  woman,  in  general, 
is  considered  as  inferior  to  man.  Some  have  explained  a  specific  back¬ 
ground  in  support.  Men  can  go  to  far  off  places  in  connection  with 
employment  and  other  opportunities.  But  the  mobility  of  woman  is 
restrained.  Except  in  exceptional  circumstances  the  women  do  not, 
alone,  go  to  far  off  places  in  search  of  employment  or  labour.  Their 
mobility  beyond  Ladakh  is  rarely  observed.  However,  they  keep  on 
coming  to  Leh,  the  headquarter  of  Ladakh.  But  the  men  have  been  going 
beyond  the  frontiers  of  Ladakh  since  onlden  times  when  communication 
was  so  difficult  in  the  hostile  climatic  region.  However,  the  argument 
seems  to  be  controversial  when  the  position  of  woman  is  assessed  in 
terms  of  work-input  of  male  and  famale.  All  admit  that  the  women 
are  more  hand  working,  and  their  contribution  in  various  economic  pur¬ 
suits  is  far  greater  than  the  men.  Most  of  the  time  she  is  busy  here  and 
there.  But  in  spite  of  all  this  she  is  rated  inferior.  Under  such  explanat¬ 
ions  it  appears  that  woman’s  inferiority  has  become  a  matter  of  tradition. 
Division  of  labour  has  least  say  in  it. 

The  Ladakhis,  in  general,  express  love  and  affection  for  womanhood. 
Ph.ysica.1  beating  of  a  woman  is  unheard  of.  Respect  is  shown  to  the 
woman.  Man  and  woman  have  equal  right  to  divorce.  The  woman  has 
a  right  to  divorce  the  husband  when  she  does  not  get  proper  attention  and 
protection  from  him.  The  latter  pertain  to  economic  and  social  life. 
She  is  at  liberty  to  divorce  when  finds  her  husband  interested  in  some 
other  female.  A  woman,  when  divorced,  can  claim  for  compensation 
to  the  tune  decided  by  the  local  leaders.  Freedom  for  marrying  is 
equally  granted  to  the  members  of  both  the  sexes.  The  girl  is  free  to 
express  her  liking.  But  in  practice  the  girl’s  opinion,  in  general,  is  not 
obtained  at  the  time  of  marriage.  Largely  the  parents  take  the  decision. 
A  widow  is  permitted  to  marry.  Now  the  growing  trend  is  for  love 
marriages.  Many  of  the  girls  and  the  boys  themselves  decide  to  marry. 
Concessions  for  remarrying  are  the  same  for  the  members  of  male  and 
female  sex.  Even  then  the  women  are  said  to  be  inferior  to  men,  though 
the  role  and  interactional  patterns  of  Ladakhi  social  structure  do  not, 
most  of  the  time,  support  the  same.  In  addtion  to  social  inferiority, 
the  woman  is  also  treated  physically  weak  in  comparison  to  man. 

In  certain  situations  the  female’s  inferiority  is  reflected  with  marked 
prominence.  This  specially  applies  to  taboos  and  impositions  related 
to  a  widow.  At  the  same  time  such  restrictions  are  not  applicable  to  a 
widower.  In  addition  to  her  being  considered  unfortunate,  a  widow  is 
not  permitted  to  participate  in  certain  functions  where  other  men  and 



women  can.  In  receptions  accorded  to  marriage  party  and  the  Lamas 
(especially  Kushok  and  other  senior  Lamas),  the  widows  are  debarred 
from  joining.  Their  presnce  is  considered  inauspicious.  But  in 

day-to-day  life  the  widows  are  not  looked  down  upon. 

*  •  ♦ 

Woman,  economy  and  social  control 

The  preference  in  the  matter  of  inheritance  goes  to  the  male.  But 
then  the  women  also  have  some  privilege  in  the  matter.  In  the  absence 
of  a  son,  in  family,  the  eldest  or  even  next  daughter  would  inherit  the 
property  including  land,  house  and  mother’s  ornaments.  Traditionally, 
male  primogeniture  has  been  the  rule.  But  in  the  absence  of  a  son  the 
female  primogeniture  could  also  be  resorted  to.  In  normal  course  the 
property  goes  to  the  men.  The  widow  can  also  get  a  share  of  her  late 
husband’s  property,  especially  when  she  opts  to  live  separately.  In 
general,  a  divorce  is  not  entitled  to  inherit  the  property  of  her  husband. 
She  can  only  demand  some  compensation  and  leave  the  house. 

Because  of  the  difficult  physical  conditions  and  limited  working 
season  the  male  and  female,  in  Ladakh,  have  to  work  hard  for  their 
existence.  The  women  make  equal,  if  not  more,  contribution  in  agricul¬ 
ture  fields  and  as  labourer.  The  women  are  seen  working  in  the  agricul¬ 
ture  fields  and  in  road  construction  almost  on  equal  footing,  if  not  more, 
with  men.  This  is  in  addition  to  their  household  duties  including  spinn¬ 
ing  and  weaving.  Except  in  ploughing,  which  is  done  by  the  men  alone, 
the  women  make  more  contribution  in  rest  of  the  agriculture  operations. 
In  sowing,  weading,  harvesting,  threshing,  winnowing,  irrigation,  collec¬ 
tion  and  carrying  of  bundles  of  produce,  the  women’s  hand  is,  in  fact, 
more.  The  women  are  frequently  seen  working  on  all  construction 
sites.  They  carry  heavy  weight  on  their  backs.  Cooking  and  cleaning 
jobs  in  the  house  are  primarily  done  by  the  women.  In  rest  of  the  acti¬ 
vities  men  also  participate.  Sharing  in  household  work  has  lately  been 
affected.  The  man’s  contribution  has  declined  because  of  his  absorp¬ 
tion  in  employment  at  far  off  places.  A  woman  is  not  independent  for 
major  spendings.  It  is  man’s  sphere  and  she  may  or  may  not  be  con¬ 
sulted.  Sons  as  well  as  the  daughters  enjoy  sufficient  liberty  in  respect 
of  their  behaviour  to  the  elders,  equals  and  juniors.  Even  the  daughter- 
in-law  is  not  restrained  much. 

In  the  traditional  mechanism  of  social  control  the  woman  has  hardly 
been  given  any  place.  Neither  at  village  nor  at  wider  levels  the  woman’s 
involvement  in  the  structure  and  role  of  social  control  agencies  is  reported. 
A  woman  Goba  is  unheard  of.  This  position  has  always  been  occupied 
by  the  members  of  male  sex  alone.  Likewise  the  members  who,  along- 
with  Goba,  constitute  the  village  council  are  always  the  males.  The 
membership  of  village  council  and  the  various  titles  associate  with  it 
have,  since  time  immemorial,  been  the  privilege  of  men  only.  The 
Ladakhis  express  their  doubts  about  the  competence  of  women  in  resol- 



ving  disputes,  more  so  at  the  level  of  village  community.  No  one,  it  is 
responded,  would  carry  out  the  decision  given  by  the  women.  The 
women  are  said  to  be  having  no  endurance  and  taste  for  the  jobs 
performed  by  Goba  and  Members.  Even  the  religious  women  are  not 
included  in  the  village  council.  When  a  meeting  of  the  village  council 
is  convened,  the  women  can  watch  the  proceedings,  if  they  so  desire. 
They,  are  however,  not  invited  unless  involved  in  some  cases.  What¬ 
ever  is  decided  and  agreed  upon  by  the  men,  their  women-folk  accept 
it.  The  formal  system  of  panchayati  Raj  is  yet  to  be  introduced  among 
the  Ladakhis.  Such  an  introduction  might  encourage  the  Ladakhi 
women  to  compete  for  certain  positions  in  the  statutory  bodies. 

Though  the  conservative  feeling  that  the  women  should  not  go  for 
formal  education  is  being  eroded,  the  proportion  of  educated  women 
in  comparison  to  men  is  very  low.  Tsewang  Dolma  (1969),  a  Ladakhi 
girl  student  of  Women’s  College,  Srinagar,  has  rightly  stated  that  the 
Ladakhi  women  have  been  rather  fortunate  in  the  past  as  well  as  in  the 
present,  in  the  sense  that  they  have  never  been  discriminated  by  their  men¬ 
folk  in  the  social  and  cultural  spheres.  They  have  enjoyed  more  freedom 
and  privileges  in  the  socia.1  and  cultural  life  of  Ladakh.  The  only  dis¬ 
crimination,  rather  neglect  of  women,  was  in  the  field  of  education.  Girls 
were  never  encouraged  for  higher  studies  till  recently.  So  they  remained 
uneducated  but  this  practice  is  disappearing.  Now  girls  are  taking  up 
education  in  large  numbers  and  the  number  of  college-going  girls  is 
increasing  day  by  day.  With  increasing  education  the  change  in  outlook 
has  also  been  marked.  The  Ladakhi  women  favour  employment.  There 
is  no  inhibition  that  the  women  should  not  serve.  Some  women  are  now 
regularly  employed  as  teachers,  nurses,  peons  and  labourers.  There 
are  now  increased  labour  and  employment  opportunities  which  the  women 
are  availing  of.  But  most  of  the  women  still  stick  to  agriculture  opera¬ 
tions,  more  becuase  a  large  number  of  men  are  now  in  services.  Suppor¬ 
ted  by  their  traditional  freedom  as  well  as  the  ensuing  formal  education, 
some  of  the  Ladakhi  women  have  started  active  participation  in  the 
formal  functions  having  late  origin.  If  need  be  some  of  them  come  to 
the  stage  to  deliver  speech.  The  impetus  is  provided  by  the  menfolk  who 
manage  the  show.  The  Ladakhi  women  also  participate  in  Independence 
Day  and  Republic  Day  celebrations  at  Leh.  Many  women  visit  Leh 
to  see  the  cinemas. 

Birht  Rites  and  Ceremonies 

The  difficult  living  conditions  and  limited  resource  do  not  curtail 
the  keenness  of  Ladakhis  for  children.  A  Rapshat  (barren  female)  is 
considered  unfortunate.  While  expressing  pity  on  fate  people  do  not 
under-estimate  her  social  position.  The  married  woman  eagerly  awaits 
pregnancy.  In  case  of  an  unusual  delay  the  Lama,  Chanspa  and  even 
Kushok  are  approached  to  seek  religious  favour  in  the  matter.  It  is 
believed  that  the  religious  men  can  help  cause  pregnancy.  This  is 
possible  with  the  help  of  the  supernatural  powers.  But  at  times  the 
latter  fail  to  do  the  needful.  The  Kushok  usually  suggests  to  prepare  a 
Thanka  (a  religious  painting).  The  person  concerned  approaches  the 
Spon,  an  expert,  and  gets  it  made.  Chanspa,  a  religious  specialist,  is 
believed  to  be  the  chief  figure  who  can  oblige  a  barren  woman.  The 
issueless  couple  approach  Chanspa  and  put  their  problem  before  him. 
The  Chanspa,  after  making  his  consultations,  suggests  for  worship  in 
various  Gompas.  The  needy  husband  and  wife  respond  to  the  call. 
During  the  piocess,  especially  while  moving  from  Gompa  to  Gompa, 
they  are  offered  food  and  Gur  Gur  by  the  villagers  where  these  Gompas 
are  situated.  In  this  context,  a  case  from  Spituk  is  rather  interesting. 
Sharup  and  his  wife  Tashi  Chhamo  did  not  get  a  child  for  many  years 
after  maniage.  They  consulted  a  Chanspa,  named  Thankshar,  of  Spituk 
village.  The  couple  was  directed  to  perform  worship  in  all  the  Gompas 
located  between  Spituk  and  Timasgaon.  Accordingly,  the  woman  and 
her  husband  did  it.  They  went  from  Gompa  to  Gompa  offering  Khatak 
and  money  accompanied  with  the  lighting  of  sacred  lamps.  After  a  few 
months  of  the  performance  the  woman  got  conceived  and  consequently 
gave  birth  to  a  son. 

During  the  course  of  exercise  suggested  by  the  religious  persons 
the  couple  also  make  human  figures  out  of  Sattu  (barely  or  buck  wheat 
flour).  The  belief  is  that  if  the  figure  resembles  a  male,  the  woman  would 
be  blessed  with  son.  And  if  the  figure  lesembles  female,  a  daughter 
would  be  born.  The  compelete  exercise  done  by  the  issuless  husband 
and  wife  is  termed  Nas  Jal — Chhas  Jal. 

Yet  another  method  of  seeking  conception  is  through  the  worship 
of  Dolma  a  goddess.  The  latter  is  believed  to  govern  the  woman  and 
her  fertility.  As  part  of  this  worship  the  Lamas  are  invited  to  the  house 
of  issueless  couple.  They  worship  Dolma  through  the  reading  of  sacred 



literature.  Only  a  particular  portion  of  the  sacred  literature  is  fixed  for 
the  purpose,  and  the  same  is  read  again  and  again.  The  reading  is  to 
be  done  one  hundred  times.  It  has  been  told  that  this  worship  continues 
for  a  year.  In  some  cases  the  Lama,  performing  the  worship,  stays  in 
the  house  of  issueless  couple  all  the  year  round.  He  does  not  go  to 
Gompa.  For  his  service,  the  Lama  is  given  a  full  dress,  good  food  and 
about  two  to  three  hundred  rupees  at  the  end  of  worship.  Dolma  is 
then  believed  to  help  though  it  is  not  guaranteed. 

The  above  explanations  support  that  the  children  are  considered 
as  the  blessings  of  god.  And  that  the  fertility  a.nd  sterility  are  in  the 
hands  of  supernaturals.  A  woman  gets  conceived  and  gives  birth  to  a 
child  only  when  the  concerned  god  and  goddess  are  happy  with  her. 
However,  the  role  of  husband  is  not  ruled  out  in  the  matter. 

Detection  and  Taboo 

The  state  of  pregnancy  is  confirmed  when  the  menses  stop.  In 
addition  to  the  above  the  pregnancy  is  also  detected  when  the  woman 
concerned  suffers  from  loss  of  appetite.  At  the  same  time  the  woman  is 
believed  to  develop  vomiting  feeling.  In  due  course  the  bulging  stomach 
confirms  what  was  anticipated.  In  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  religious  cause 
for  conception  is  held  high,  there  are  not  many  rites  and  ceremonies 
connected  to  the  period  when  a  woman  carries.  A  few  taboos  are, 
however,  reported.  The  pregnant  woman  is  directed  not  to  carry  heavy 
load.  Even  in  normal  course  the  Ladakhi s  do  not  carry  very  heavy  load 
because  of  the  adverse  consequences  of  high  altitude  and  scarcity  of 
oxygen.  A  pregnant  woman  is  asked  to  avoid  major  jerks  and  jumps. 
One  of  the  chief  taboos  during  the  course  of  pregnancy  is  that  no  Khatak, 
already  kept  in  the  house,  is  to  be  offered  to  anyone.  In  case  it  is  essen¬ 
tial  to  offer  Kba.tak,  it  is  to  be  procured  from  the  market.  No  old  Khatak 
is  to  be  used  for  the  purpose.  Usually  the  offering  of  Khatak  is  avoided 
when  some  woman  is  pregnant  in  the  house.  Also,  the  pregnant  woman 
is  not  supposed  to  visit  other  villages.  It  is  feared  that  evil  eye  would 
adversely  affect  the  woman  as  well  as  the  child  inside  the  womb.  At 
the  same  time  the  pregnant  woman  is  not  to  indulge  in  sexual  intercourse. 
Such  an  indulgence  is  believed  to  harm  the  child.  The  violation  of 
above  mentioned  prohibitions  is  likely  to  cause  miscarriage.  In  addtion, 
the  climatic  factor  is  considered  no  Ess  important  a  cause  of  abortion. 
Some  informants  admit  that  extreme  winter  is  a  prominent  cause  of 

In  the  seventh  month  of  pregnancy  a  ceremony  involving  reading 
of  sacred  literature  and  worship  is  performed  by  the  Lama.  It  is  known 
as  Dhunuche.  The  chief  function  of  this  ceremony  is  to  read  the  future 
of  the  expected  child.  If  everything  is  found  to  the  satisfaction,  the 
ceremony  is  closed.  In  case  some  discrepancies  are  marked,  the  ceremony 
is  extended.  Lama,  in  that  case  switches  over  to  the  next  connected 




worship  for  two  to  five  days.  The  performance  helps  prevail  upon  the 
evil  stars  in  the  child’s  future.  For  all  his  services,  the  Lama  gets  his 
meals  and  two  to  three  rupees. 

Delivery  and  after 

With  the  start  of  labour  pains  the  woman  is  given  sufficient  quantity 
of  Gur  Gur.  Ladakhis  believe  tha.t  such  an  intake  helps  cause  quick 
and  easy  delivery.  In  the  event  of  some  complications  in  delivery,  a  Lama 
is  immediately  called  for.  He  mixes  some  butter  with  his  sliva  and  makes 
the  delivering  lady  swallow  it.  When  this  ritual  fails  to  cause  any  relief, 
the  Amchi  (local  medicineman)  is  contacted.  He  helps  through  his 
medicines.  The  woman  delivers  the  child  on  a  piece  of  cloth  spread  on 
the  floor.  Some  informants  from  Sabu  stated  that  when  a  woman  is 
about  to  give  birth  to  a  child,  she  is  shifted  to  some  shelter  away  from 
her  residence.  Such  a  shifting  is  done  only  if  the  residence  of  the  expec¬ 
tant  mother  is  surrounded  by  some  perennial  water  channel  used  as 
drinking  water  or  irrigation  source.  If  she  gives  birth  in  her  residence, 
she  and  her  husband  would  not  be  able  to  move  out  of  her  house  for  a 
month.  This  is  because  the  crossing  of  water  channels  is  taboo  for  a 
month.  Crossing  of  channels  would  be  annoying  the  spirits  who  may 
cause  scarcity  of  water  and  damage  the  crops.  To  avoid  such  a  situation, 
the  woman,  alongwith  her  husband,  shift  to  the  house  of  one  of  their 
Phasphuns.  Its  location  should  be  at  a  place  where  the  water  channels 
are  not  be  crossed.  If  such  a  residence  is  not  easily  available,  a  tent  is 
erected  for  the  purpose.  The  woman,  her  husband  and  the  newborn 
stay  there  temporarily  and  finally  shift  to  their  residence. 

It  has  also  been  reported  that  the  husba.nd  and  wife,  when  the  latter 
is  to  deliver  a  chile,  are  confined  to  one  room,  sometimes  for  nearly 
a  month.  They  are  looked  after  well.  The  Ladakhis  of  Kuyul  have, 
reported  that  the  delivery  of  a  woman  is  primarily  attended,  by  her  hus¬ 
band.  He  helps  his  wife  to  deliver  the  child.  In  the  absence  of  husband, 
his  mother,  sister  or  any  other  experinced  lady  of  the  locality  attends. 
But  in  Spituk  the  informants  have  stated  that  the  husband  does  not 
attend  the  wife  at  the  time  of  delivery.  Rather,  the  mother  of  the  husband, 
or  of  the  wife  attends.  But  at  the  same  time  it  is  commonly  agreed  upon 
that  the  husband  does  stay  with  the  delivered  woman  for  atleast  seven 
days.  He  cannot  move  out  of  the  house  a.nd  looks  after  the  mother 
and  the  infant.  Such  a  confinement  of  the  husband  is  known  as  Pakzam 
or  Pankh.  It  has  a  religious  background.  The  belief  is  that  Lhato 
(  a  god)  would  get  annoyed  if  the  husband  moves  out  during  this  period. 
And  his  annoyance  would  cause  harm  not  only  to  the  husband  but  also 
to  other  members  of  the  community.  The  fear  makes  even  the  community 
members  take  notice  of  the  fact  that  the  husband  of  the  delivered  woman 
keeps  inside  the  house  for  seven  days  after  delivery. 

The  post-delivery  period  is  treated  as  unclean,  and  so  are  treated  the 



mother,  the  child  and  the  husband..  Pollution  period  is  for  seven  days 
after  delivery.  During  this  period  no  worship  is  to  be  peformed.  In 
this  regard  some  flexibility,  on  the  basis  of  sex,  is  marked.  No  worship 
is  done  for  seven  days  in  case  of  the  birth  of  a  female  child.  But  when 
a  boy  is  born  the  worship  may  be  arranged  on  the  third  day.  Because 
of  the  period  of  pollution,  people  avoid  eating  or  drinking  in  the  house 
of  the  new-born.  The  prohibition  is  observed  for  seven  days.  The 
food  given  to  a  delivered  mother  is  Thuppa  (a  preparation  of  Sattu  and 
mea.t).  Thuppa  is  the  richest  food  of  Ladakhis.  For  how  long  she 
can  eat  it  would  depend  upon  the  economic  position  of  the  family.  She 
is  at  so  fed  with  butter.  The  child  depends  on  breast-feeding. 

Ceremonies  after  birth 

On  the  seventh  day  after  confineent  of  the  husband  and  wife,  a 
Lama  is  requisitioned  for  performing  Laf-Tsang/Dhunsung.  This  is  a 
worship  meant  to  remove  the  unclean  atmosphere.  It  is  after  the  per¬ 
formance  of  Laf-Tsang  that  the  husband  starts  coming  out  of  the  house. 
The  relatives  and  some  other  members  of  the  village  community  attend 
Dun,  a  festive  occasion  celebrated  after  Laf-Tsang.  The  occasion  is 
celebrated  with  pomp  and  show  in  case  of  the  first  delivery.  The  Beda 
and  Mon  musicians  grace  the  occasion.  In  subsequent  deliveries  the 
celebrations  are  cut  short.  On  the  occasion  of  Dun  all  the  invitees  come 
well-dressed.  They  congratulate  the  parents  and  shower  blessings  on 
the  newborn.  The  relatives  of  the  couple,  blessed  with  the  child  bring 
some  dresses  for  the  new-born.  They  also  carry  Thuppa,  Chang,  Roti 
etc.  for  the  couple.  Dun  participation  is  on  reciprocal  basis.  All  the 
invitees  are  served  with  Chang  and  Gur  Gur.  After  the  feast  of  Dun 
the  mother  is  allowed  to  move  out  of  the  house.  She  also  takes  bath  on 
the  occasion.  A  common  belief  is  that  Lhato  gets  annoyed  if  the  un¬ 
clean  ones  move  around.  In  case  of  a  polyandrous  union  the  eldest 
husband  is  supposed  to  stay  with  the  common  wife  after  delivery. 

Da-Tsang  is  the  next  ceremony  observed  after  one  month  of  the 
delivery.  Its  celebration  also  involves  worship  done  by  the  Lamas. 
The  chief  significance  of  Da-Tsang  is  to  revive  complete  purity  in  the  house. 
After  this  worship,  it  is  believed,  the  house  would  be  as  pure  as  it  used 
to  be  prior  to  the  delivery.  Also,  the  performance  helps  appease  Khim- 
la  (a  god).  Through  this  performance  the  Ladakhis  seek  blessings  as 
well  as  pardon  from  Khimla.  The  belief  is  that  the  avoidance  of  Da- 
Tsang  would  cause  trouble  to  the  inmates  of  the  house.  In  Da-Tsang 
too  the  relatives  and  other  members  of  the  community  come  to  parti¬ 
cipate.  The  relatives  bring  dresses,  Chang  and  other  food  material. 
Da-tsang  celebration  is  more  elaborate  in  case  of  the  first  child.  The 
feast  organised  immediately  after  Da-Tsang  is  called  Dang-Gang. 
Laf-Tsang  and  Da-Tsang  worship  are  largely  done  by  one  Lama. 

The  observance  of  Laf-Tsang  and  Da-Tsang  indicate  that  the  Ladakhis 



give  more  importance  to  the  first  child.  May  be  that  it  has  something 
to  do  with  their  traditional  system  of  primogeniture.  After  the  purifi¬ 
cation  of  the  house,  and  more  likely  after  Laf-Tsang,  the  Ladakhis  cele¬ 
brate  the  birth  of  the  child.  This  celebration  is  known  as  Nang-Dun. 
The  relatives  and  others,  including  Phasphuns  attend  and  share  the  feast 
popularly  known  as  Marzan.  Chang  and  Gur  Gur  a.lso  form  part  of 
Marzan.  Nang-Dun  celebration  may  be  organized  when  the  child  is 
one  month  old.  Some  of  the  Ladakhis,  specially  in  Leh  manage  for 
Chonga  a  feast  organized  after  15th  day  of  delivery.  It  is  more  popular 
in  Leh.  Its  function  is  the  same  as  that  of  Nang-Dun  but  organised 
in  a  more  elaborate  form.  Role  of  religion  is  important  in  the  context 
of  a  birth.  In  addition  to  what  has  been  explained  above  the  Onpo’s 
recognition  is  undisputed.  The  Onpo  in  general  is  contacted  after  every 
birth.  He  is  rather  invited  to  the  house  of  the  new-born  to  read  the 
future  of  the  chi’d..  He  prepares  horoscope  for  the  infant.  This  document 
is  believed  to  contain  all  about  the  infant’s  future.  In  case  of  hurdles 
reported  for  future  life  the  Onpo  suggests  remendies.  A  common  one 
of  these  is  to  suggest  for  religious  paintings.  These  are  to  be  prepared 
by  Spon  and  kept  in  the  Chotkang.  As  remedy  the  performance  of  wor¬ 
ship  is  also  suggested.  It  is  done  by  the  Lamas.  The  Ladakhis  believe 
that  the  destiny  of  man  involves  certain  untoward  incidents  and  the 
same  can  be  avoided  or  atleast  minimised  with  the  help  of  religion 
and  religious  agencies.  A  worship  is  again  organised  by  the  Lamas 
for  the  long  life  of  new-born,  A  spoonful  of  milk  is  given  to  the  child 
with  the  repetition  of  the  word  Om.  The  father  fixes  an  arrow  in  wheat 
or  Grim  heap  and  keeps  it  so  for  a  week.  Some  butter  is  applied  to  the 
arrow-tip  and  a  Khatak  tied  on  it. 

Pangri  is  the  biggest  celebration  after  the  birth  in  a  family.  However, 
this  celebration  is  not  part  and  parcel  of  every  birth.  Only  the  rich 
families  can  afford  to  organise  Pangri.  It  involves  the  organisation 
of  a  grand  feast.  There  is  no  fixed  day  for  the  occasion  and  it  can  be 
arranged  on  any  day  after  the  monthly  Puja  is  over.  The  Ladakhis  have 
informed  that  Pangri  is  the  only  celebration  after  a  birth  wherein  people 
are  invited.  Otherwise,  knowing  the  date  of  a  particular  ritual  or 
ceremony  they  themselves  come  to  participate.  And  this  is  almost 
obligatory  to  them.  Even  if  a  person  fails  to  attend  a  ceremony  on  the 
fixed  day  he  or  she  may  call  on  the  parents  of  the  new-born  on  the  next 
or  some  other  day  and  repeat  whatever  he  was  expected  to  do  on  the 
fixed  day  of  celebration.  The  unique  feature  of  Pangri  is  that  it  is  a  spe¬ 
cially  arranged  feast  whose  day/date  is  not  traditionally  fixed.  Since 
the  organization  of  Pangri  incurs  heavy  expenditure  it  is  getting  out  of 
fashion.  Many  Ladakhis  do  not,  now,  approve  of  it  for  economic 
reason  and  changing  outlook.  Some  feel  that  heavy  investment  in  an 
affair  like  Pangri  is  unwise.  Pangri  has  no  religious  background.  It 
only  expresses  happiness  over  the  new  addition  in  family. 

The  social  position  of  a  family  bears  intimate  relationship  with  the 



way  the  ceremonial  performances  are  arranged.  In  case  of  socially 
superior  families,  the  ceremonies  are  observed  with  greater  pomp  and 
show.  They  invite  more  people  and  hence  spend  more.  The  proce¬ 
dure  demands  that  higher  the  social  standing  more  is  to  be  invested  on 
such  occasions.  For  instance,  when  the  birth  rituals  and  ceremonies 
are  observed  by  a  Kalhon,  more  people  would  come  to  join,  more  Lamas 
would  participate  and  it  will  be  for  more  number  of  days  (depending 
upon  the  nature  of  celebration).  It  would  also  involve  giving  moie 
money  to  Lamas. 

The  organization  of  feasts  at  various  stages  mark  some  functional 
uniformity.  These  are  an  expression  of  happiness  and  joy.  In  addition 
to  rejoicings  the  performances  call  for  a  social  gathering  of  relatives  who 
get  into  kinship  usages  and  obligations  on  such  occasions.  Kinship 
reciprocity  is  also  displayed.  The  third  function  poses  for  a  strong 
sense  of  community  living. 

Ralchang  corresponds  to  Mundan  ceremony  so  often  reported  in 
various  communities  of  plain  India.  It  marks  the  occasion  when  the  new¬ 
born  is  given  first  ceremonial  hair-cut.  Ralchang  ceremony  is  observed 
only  in  case  of  the  boy.  There  is  no  time  fixed  for  the  purpose.  Gradu¬ 
ally  it  is  organised  when  a  child  is  between  one  to  two  years  of  age.  For 
an  auspicious  day  the  Ladakhis  consult  a  Lama.  This  is  followed  by 
extending  invitations  to  all  the  relatives.  The  members  of  the  Phasphun 
group  are  a.lso  invited.  The  hair-cut  is  given  either  by  the  mother  or 
father.  The  hair-cut  may  also  be  given  by  a  person  whose  parents  are 
alive  a.nd  who  is  married.  They  do  not  have  professional  barbers.  The 
relatives  watch  the  hair-cut  and  offer  Khatak  and  money  to  the  child.  The 
latter  amount  does  not  exceed  a  rupee.  Each  relative  is  obliged  to  give 
it.  Thereafter,  they  join  the  feast  organised  on  the  occasion.  Chang 
forms  the  chief  content  of  the  feast.  Ritually,  only  a  small  portion  of 
the  hair  is  cut,  and  the  head  is  not  completely  shaved. 

Naming  of  the  new-born  is  always  done  by  the  religious  men.  The 
Lamas  as  well  as  the  Kushok  name  a  child.  Labha,  again  a  religious 
person,  is  also  consulted  for  giving  a  suitable  name.  For  name  giving, 
Labha  is  more  popular  in  Kuyul,  though  the  specialist  stays  only  in 
Fuckche.  No  da.te  or  time  is  fixed  for  the  purpose.  The  step  for  naming 
a  child  can  be  taken  up  as  and  when  found  convenient.  Normally, 
people  prefer  to  seek  for  a  name  when  the  child  is  two  to  three  months 
old.  Rut  some  of  the  Ladakhis  do  not  bother  to  ask  for  name  for  two 
to  three  years.  Till  then  they  just  call  a  female  child  as  Digmo  and 
male  as  Digpa.  When  the  parents  approach  Labha  for  seeking  a  name 
for  the  new-born,  the  Labha  consults  the  sacred  books,  shivers  for  a  while 
and  then  shouts  a  name.  The  ritual  assures  that  the  name  has  been 
desired  by  god.  Labha  is  offered  food,  Chang  and  money.  If  a  couple 
approaches  head  Lama  (it  happens  more  in  case  of  socially  superior 
families)  to  seek  name  for  the  child,  they  first  offer  a  Khatak  to  head  Lama 
and  then  humbly  put  their  proposal.  Khatak  for  a  head  Lama  is  the 



chief  symbol  of  respect  and  honour.  Some  also  offer  money.  In  ease 
of  well-off  and  socially  superior  families,  the  occasion  of  naming  is 
celebrated  with  a  feast.  Special  invitees  to  the  latter  are  the  members 
of  Gyut  ard  the  relatives.  Naming  ceremony  is  called  as  JVleen-Tzus. 
It  may  be  mentioned  that  the  names  are  never  chosen  by  the  parents 
themselves.  At  the  same  time  no  part  of  the  parent’s  name  is  necessarily 
inherited.  The  surnames  do  not  exist  among  the  Ladakhis.  Certain 
popular  names  are  common  to  many  people.  Usually  the  names  are 
associated  with  some  meaning.  A  name  consists  of  two  separate  parts 
communicating  separate  meanings.  Normally,  the  names  are  in  the 
context  of  days  of  the  week  (preferably  the  name  of  birthday),  blessings 
for  long  life,  prosperity,  good  luck  and  goddess.  The  last  one  is  chiefly 
found  among  the  women  and  it  is  after  Drolma  or  Dolma,  a  goddess  more 
concerned  with  the  women  and  their  life.  The  women,  like  the  men,  have 
two  parts  of  their  names.  One  part  of  the  name,  so  often  heard  of, 
includes  Tashi  (Tuesday),  Sonam  (good  luck),  Diskit  (happiness), 
Dorje  (or  religious  significance),  Dolma  (liberator)  etc.  Name  is,  thus, 
not  independent  of  many  other  aspects  of  Ladakhi  life  and  culture. 


Death  Rituals  and  Ceremonies 

The  Ladakhis  take  diseases  as  the  major  cause  of  death.  But  then  the 
concept  and  cause  of  diseases  have  religious  roots.  Diseases  are  believed 
to  be  sent  by  the  supernaturals.  Of  the  latter  more  responsible  are  the 
ghosts  and  the  spirits.  Some  other  gods  and  goddesses  too  cause  sickness 
when  in  angry  mood.  Even  in  case  of  animals  the  sickness  is  believed  to  be 
caused  by  the  superantural  forces.  Out  of  malevolent  spirits  Shinte  or 
or  Shinde  is  stated  to  be  the  most  mischievous  and  harmful.  Suddenly 
a  person  gets  suspicious  that  he  has  been  overtaken  by  some  ghost. 
Such  a  feeling  causes  fear  and  sickness  to  the  person.  Shinde  is  believed 
to  have  three  forms,  that  is,  Chan,  Gyapo  and  Teemo.  People’s  concep¬ 
tion  of  these  are  that  they  are  invisible  and  move  around  in  the  air.  The 
imagination  for  Gyapo  and  Teemo  is  that  they  ride  on  a  horse  and  wear  red 
clothes.  A  patient  believed  to  be  suffering  under  the  affect  of  Gyapo  and 
Teemo  nmy  recover  only  after  the  Onpo  suggests  for  remedial  worship. 
The  villagers  make  figures  of  spirits.  This  is  done  with  Sattu  paste. 
These  figures  are  ultimately  thrown  away.  The  Ladakhis  believe  that  a 
man,  after  death,  becomes  ghost  if  his  greed  for  the  wealth,  he  is  leaving, 
continues  to  be  expressed  till  he  breathes  last.  Chhoskong  Shungma  is 
believed  to  be  a  protector  against  the  ghost  and  hence  helps  to  save  a  per¬ 
son’s  life.  Its  image  may  be  kept  in  Chhotkang  or  Gompa.  When  a  person 
dies  suddenly,  say  as  a  result  of  some  accident  or  otherwise,  his  soul  does 
not  find,  proper  abode  and  assumes  the  form  of  Shinde.  This  happens 
because  a  person  dies  without  fulfilling  many  of  his  wishes.  Shinde  may 
even  prove  helpful  if  kept  appeased.  Otherwise  it  causes  sickness.  A 
worship,  termed  Zinshak,  is  performed  by  the  Lamas  to  ward  off  the  effect. 
A  sketch  of  Shinde  is  drawn  on  a  paper.  It  is  later  on  burnt  by  Onpo,  and 
the  ritual  helps  to  ward  off  evil  effects.  In  regard  to  life-span,  the  Ladakhi 
v'ew  is  that  those  who  do  good  deeds  would  have  a  longer  life.  And.  the 
age  of  a  person  would  be  less  if  he  or  she  has  been  indulging  in  bad  acts. 
With  all  this  it  is  also  believed  that  a  person  dies  when  gets  old.  Death 
can  also  be  caused  by  suicide  is  yet  another  version  of  the  Ladakhis. 

Another  popular  belief  is  that  Sangyas  (Lord  Buddha)  is  chiefly  respon¬ 
sible  for  life  as  well  as  death.  If  Sangyas  is  keen  to  retain  a  life,  the  person 
survives;  else  the  person  dies.  Sangyas  can  cause  death  through  sick¬ 
ness  or  accident.  People  further  add  that  life-span  is  fixed  by  Sangyas, 
taking  stock  of  past  actions  of  the  person.  A  person,  considered  good  by 

THE  LAftAKrfl 


Sangyas,  not  only  enjoys  long  life  but  also  meets  an  easy  death.  Other¬ 
wise  the  person  keeps  on  suffering  with  some  chronic  disease  and  breathes 
last  after  bearing  lot  of  hardships. 

Treatment  with  dead  body 

While  breathing  last  the  person  desires  to  give  final  instructions  to  the 
remaining  family  members.  The  act  is  known  as  Khachen.  Simul¬ 
taneously,  the  person,  heading  to  death,  is  advised  by  the  priest  to  forget 
of  the  worldly  things,  especially  of  wealth  and  children.  The  priest  further 
directs  the  person,  struggling  with  death,  to  concentrate  on  Chhotkang 
gods  and  religious  men. 

Soon  after  a  person  dies,  the  Lobon,  a  superior  Lama,  or  any  other 
Lama  is  called  for.  The  relatives  and  Phasphuns  are  simultaneously 
intimated  of  the  incident.  When  a  person  is  dead,  Chinlap,  a  round 
tablet  made  of  Sattu  paste,  is  kept  in  the  mouth.  The  tablet  is  made  during 
the  course  of  worship  performed  at  the  time  of  death.  The  Lama  does  so. 
Keeping  of  Chinlap  in  the  dead  person’s  mouth  is  believed  to  help  remove 
all  sins  which  the  person  had  committed  in  life-time.  Thus,  the  sins  do 
not  accompany  the  person  in  the  life  after  death.  Thus,  the  Lamp’s  role 
is  very  important.  From  birth  onwards  the  Lamas  keep  regulating  the 
life  of  a  Ladakhi.  At  birth,  they  wish  happy  life  and  future  to  the  new¬ 
born.  And  when  sins  are  committed  in  the  life-span,  the  same  are  removed 
at  the  time  of  death. 

Unless  Lama  comes  and  preaches  a  sermon,  known  as  Phoi  or  Phoa, 
the  dead  body  is  not  be  touched  by  any  one.  Phoi  is  the  death  worship 
performed  by  a  single  Lama.  The  completion  of  worship  takes  about  an 
hour.  The  functional  importance  of  this  worship  is  to  channelise  the  dead 
to  heavenly  path.  Phoi  is  also  believed  to  help  give  a  better  rebirth. 
People  assume  that  this  worship  helps  ca.use  a  hole  in  the  head  of  the  dead. 
This  outlet  paves  way  to  mind  and  consciousness  pass  out.  During  the 
course  of  this  worship  the  head  of  the  dead  person  is  carefully  watched. 
If  the  people  can  observe  the  head,  sweating,  it  is  derived  that  the  rebirth 
would  be  in  some  better  category.  Phoi’s  function  is,  thus,  multipurpose. 
During  his  sermon,  as  part  of  worship,  the  Lama*  also  keeps  some  butter 
on  the  dea.d  man’s  head.  Alongwith  butter,  a  medicine,  known  as  Rillu 
may  also  be  kept.  In  many  cases  the  dead  body  is  shaked  while  putting 
Phoa  (butter  and  Rillu  put  on  the  head  are  also  known  as  Phoa).  This 
is  done  when  some  doubt  is  left  on  the  of  a  person.  Death  is  ascer¬ 
tained  if  shaking  makes  no  change. 

Only  after  the  rite  of  Phoa  is  over,  the  Phasphuns  alone  are  allowed  to 
touch  the  dead  body.  The  clothes  of  the  dead  person  are  removed  by 
them.  The  naked  body  is  given  a  bath  and  arranged  in  sitting  posture, 
with  folded  hands.  The  body,  covered  from  head  with  old  or  new  white 
clothes,  is  then  tied  with  thin  rope  and  put  in  a  sack.  It  is  kept  in 
one  of  the  corners  of  the  house.  The  dead  body  can  be  seen  and  handled 

death  rituals  and  ceremonies 


only  by  the  Phasphuns.  No  one  else  is  allowed  to  see  and  touch  it.  The 
dead  body  is  then  retained  in  the  house  for  as  many  days  as  the  Lamas 
suggest.  For  how  long  the  dead  body  is  to  be  retained  and  on  what  date 
and  time  and  in  what  direction  the  body  is  to  be  cremated  are  suggested 
by  the  Lamas.  They  do  so  in  consultation  of  sacred  literature.  The 
Lamas  calculate  the  days  of  retention  keeping  in  view  the  family’s  econo¬ 
mic  position.  A  normal  principle  is  that  higher  the  social  and.  economic 
standing  of  the  dead  and  his  family,  more  would  be  the  number  of  days 
for  which  the  dead  body  would  be  kept  in  the  house.  The  duration  may 
be  as  long  as  one  month  provided  the  weather  conditions  do  not  adver¬ 
sely  affect  the  corpse.  As  long  as  the  dead  body  is  retained  in  the  house 
the  Lamas  keep  on  doing  their  worship.  Worship  starts  every  morning  and 
continues  till  late  evening.  The  Lamas  keep  on  reading  the  sacred  litera¬ 
ture  in  the  interest  of  better  future  of  the  dead.  Some  informants  have 
also  stated  that  the  dead  body  is  aranged  in  sitting  poistion  just  prior  to 
the  cremation.  Lamas  are  given  the  best  possible  food,  on  the  occasion. 
The  Phasphuns  iook  after  all  activities  and.  the  Lamas.  Though  the  death 
is  an  occasion  for  sorrow,  the  Lamas  eat  the  best  and  to  the  full.  Through¬ 
out  the  day  their  cups  and.  plates  are  full  of  one  eatable  or  the  other.  The 
Lamas  are  given  special  care  during  worship  because  they  are  believed  to 
help  the  dead  person  for  a  better  abode.  Under  the  circumstances  the 
family  of  the  dead,  remains  highly  obliged,  to  the  Lamas  for  their  perfor¬ 
mance.  All  Lamas  from,  the  nearby  monastery  come  to  participate  in 
Chhoga,  a  worship  arranged,  on  the  day  of  cremation.  They  keep  aside  a 
little  portion  of  the  food  or  drink  before  eating  or  drinking  the  major 
portion.  The  portion,  set  apart,  is  believed  to  be  the  share  of  the  dead 
person.  After  Chhoga  is  over  the  Lamas  give  a  green  singal  for  the  crema¬ 
tion  of  the  dead  body.  The  Lama,  conducting  Phoa,  sits  separately  from 
those  Lamas  who  do  Chhoga.  The  Ladakhis  cremate  their  dead.  The 
dead  body  is  preferably  carried  by  the  Phasphuns.  This  is  done  under  the 
direction  of  Onpo.  The  time  and.  day  of  cremation  are  intimated  to  the 
villagers  and  relatives.  They  all  join  carrying  Roti,  Sattu,  Chang  and 
Thalluk,  (specially  prepared,  cake  of  flour).  On  this  occasion  people  join 
from  all  ethnic  groups  and  religions. 

The  dead  body,  properly  fitted,  in  a  box,  is  carried  to  the  cremation 
ground  on  shoulders  by  four  Phasphuns.  When  tired.,  they  can  also  be 
substituted  by  other  Phasphuns.  If  four  Phasphuns  are  not  available 
only  one  may  carry  the  dead,  body  on  his  back.  The  latter  is  a  common 
practice  among  Beda,  Gara  and  Mon  as  their  Phasphuns  are  not  e?4sily 
available.  Some  are  of  the  view  that  the  father’s  dead  body  is  carried  by 
his  sons.  A  woman’s  body  may  be  carried  by  her  son  or  husband.  But 
it  is  done  for  a  short  distance,  say  from  the  room  to  the  main  gate  of  the 
house.  The  occasion  is  marked  by  loud  weap  of  close  relatives.  From 
the  day  of  death  to  the  day  of  cremation,  the  weaping,  by  one  or  the  other 
mourner,  is  heard  of.  While  weaping,  the  mourners  shout  of  good  qualities 
of  the  dead.  The  Lamas,  in  their  typical  dresses  meant  for  the  occasion, 




give  lead  to  the  death  procession.  The  women  do  not  participate  in  the 
death  procession.  Some  processionists  carry  a  piece  of  wood  each.  The 
dead  body  is  then  either  kept,  after  removing  clothes  meant  for  its  decora¬ 
tion,  near  or  sometimes  directly  inside  a  rectangular  structure  made  of 
bricks  or  stones  plastered  from  outside.  This  structure  and  place  around 
it  are  kept  clean  by  giving  a  new  coating  of  clay  plaster.  Lamas  start 
the  relevant  worship.  The  relatives  and  Phasphuns  of  the  dead  make  three 
rounds  of  the  structure  (sometimes  referred  as  Purkhang).  While  taking 
rounds  they  also  bow  to  the  dead.  The  body  is  then  set  on  fire  through 
wide  openings  left  at  the  bottom  of  the  structure.  This  is  done  by  one 
of  the  Phasphuns.  In  most  of  the  cases  the  Lama  supplies  the  initial  fire. 

The  cremation  of  the  dead  body  in  sitting  position,  and  the  specific 
structure  in  which  the  dead  body  is  cremated,  have  a  special  reason.  The 
arrangment  shows  how  the  Ladakhis  have  adjusted,  themselves  with  the 
ecological  conditions.  Ladakh  faces  acute  scarcity  of  fuel  including  wood. 
People  cannot  afford  to  waste  fuel.  The  Ladakhis  feel  that  the .ci emotion 
of  dead  body  in  straight  position  would  require  more  fuel  than  what 
is  required  when  the  body  is  cremated  in  sitting  position.  Likewise 
the  particular  structure,  in  which  the  body  is  cremated,  is  meant  to  check 
the  fast  winds  that  blow  in  Ladakh  and  which  may  disturb  the  flames 
in  the  absence  of  structure.  The  arrangement  is  so  designed  that  the 
cremation  is  done  with  the  least  quantity  of  fuel  and  with  the  limited 
flame- target  area. 

*  *  V  ,  ■ 


The  ritual  of  Yingshak  refers  to  a  ceremonial  addition  of  rice,  wheat, 
Ghee,  barley,  mustard  seeds,  milk  and  Chang  to  the  flames,  when  the  dead 
body  is  being  cremated.  These  articles  are  thrown  by  a  Lama  during 
the  course  of  cremation.  Simultaneously  the  other  Lamas  keep  on  doing 
the  worship.  These  things  are  thrown  in  little  quantity  after  some  interval 
of  time.  The  addition  goes  on  till  the  dead  body  is  completely  burnt  to 
ashes.  The  consumable  articles,  thrown  in  the  fire,  serve  specific  purpose. 
It  is  believed  tha.t  through  Yingshak  the  dead  person  gets  satisfied,  and 
his  spirit  would  not  visit  the  family  again.  In  the  absence  of  Yingshak, 
the  dead  person  may  become  Shinde  and  trouble  the  family. 

Prior  to  the  burning  of  fire,  and  after  the  Lamas  start  worship  in  the 
cremation  ground,  one  of  the  Phasphuns  comes  forward  for  a  specific 
purpose.  This  Phasphun  holds  a  wide  but  shallow  metallic  dish  in  his 
hands.  The  dish  contains  Sattu  cakes.  The  man  carrying  the  dish  tries 
to  go  round  the  structure  meant  for  cremation.  He  is  then  followed  by 
a  Lama  who  performed  Phoa.  Lama  carries  a  small  stick  in  his  hand. 
Both  of  them  pose  in  a  way  as  if  the  Lama  is  chasing  the  Phasphun,  carry¬ 
ing  metallic  dish,  to  beat  him.  Finally  the  Phasphun,  driven  away  by  the 
Lama,  keeps  the  dish  a  little  away.  The  function  of  this  performance  is 
again  religious.  The  dead  is  believed  to  be  attracted  by  the  eatable  in  the 



dish  and  goes  alongwith  it.  Driven  away  by  the  Lama,  and  being  satis¬ 
fied  with  eatables,  the  spirit  of  the  dead  does  not  trouble  the  remaining 
family  members.  When  the  body  is  reduced  to  ashes  people  return  back 
to  the  house  of  dead.  They  are  again  led  by  the  Lamas.  All  those  who 
participated  in  the  death  procession  wash  their  hands  and  face.  The  men 
who  carried  the  dead  body  remain  confined  to  the  house  till  the  worship 
is  over.  The  Phasphuns  and  relatives  supply  food  to  the  bereaved  family 
members.  It  is  known  as  Dugjan.  Some  informants  have  also  stated 
that  the  relatives  of  the  dead  can  crarry  his  body  and  put  it  to  fire  for 

In  many  cases  the  small  unburnt  bones  of  the  dead  are  collected  from 
the  crematorium  and  taken  home.  They  are  mixed  with  clay  paste  after 
being  powdered.  It  is  done  because  the  cremation  is  usually  imperfect 
under  the  condition  of  fuel  scarcity,  and  people  do  not  appreciate  if  bones 
keep  on  lying  like  this.  Medallions  are  made  from  clay  paste  and  pow¬ 
dered  bones.  Sometimes  these  are  given  particular  shapes,  resembling 
human  figure,  and  then  kept  in  a  repository  meant  for  the  purpose. 
Within  four  days  after  the  cremation  the  remains  and  ashes  of  the 
cremated  are  collected  and  finally  thrown  either  into  the  water  or  on  a  hill 
top.  The  collection  of  such  remains  can  be  done  even  on  the  next  day 
of  cremation.  The  Phasphuns  also  prepare  Chhaj  (small  Chorten — the 
religious  structure).  They  are  then  worshipped  and  finally  kept  in  Mane  (a 
religious  structure)  or  thrown  in  water.  This  is  done  for  better  future  and 
abode  of  the  dead. 

The  Lamas  continue  their  worship  even  after  the  cremation  is  over. 
For  how  long  it  goes  is  not  categorically  defined.  The  duration  of  such 
worship  is  determined  by  the  economic  and  social  position  of  the  dead 
person.  The  higher  the  social  position,  or  richer  the  person,  the  longer 
would  be  the  duration  of  worship.  The  richest  possible  food,  Chang  and 
Gur  Gur  are  made  available,  in  abundance,  on  this  occasion.  Lamas 
eat  to  the  full.  In  addition,  the  Lamas  are  also  given  some  remuneration 
for  their  services.  Some  may  even  give  one  or  more  goat  or  sheep  to 
the  Lamas. 



After  the  cremation  of  dead  body,  and  when  people  return  to  the  house 
of  the  dead,  a  day  is  fixed  for  the  auction  of  dead  person’s  personal  belong¬ 
ings.  His  dress,  utensils  and  other  personal  articles  are  sanctioned.  This 
is  done  on  any  of  the  days  when  the  Lamas  are  performing  worship.  The 
relatives  and  villagers  are  informed  of  the  date  of  auction.  All,  including 
Lamas,  are  entitled  to  buy  the  articles.  Many  of  these  articles  are  new  too. 
The  money  raised  from  this  auction  is  donated  to  the  Lamas  and  Gompa. 
The  ceremony  is  known  as  Bulba  (though  Bulba  chiefly  refers  to  articles 
of  dead)  and  is  meant  to  several  all  connections  of  the  dead  from  the 
house  where  he  lived.  When  Bulba  is  not  done  the  spirit  of  the  dead  might 



visit  the  family  for  personal  belongings  and  trouble  some  member.  The 
auction  is  organized  by  a  Lama  and  the  Phasphuns.  The  articles  bought 
through  Bulba  are  made  use  of.  The  division  of  money,  obtained  from 
Bulba,  is,  at  times  categorically  defined.  One  fifth  is  given  to  the  local 
Gompa  and  the  rest,  in. equal  proportion,  goes  to  two  bigger  Gompas  of 
the  region.  Lamas  may  also  be  given  some  portion  of  the  same,  if  need 
be.  Some  respondents  have  stated  that  the  entire  money  is  distributed 
among  the  Lamas  only.  More  of  it  goes  to  Gallong  (chief  Lama)  and 
less  to  Chung  Jung  (younger  Lama).  A  part  may  also  be  sent  to  Kushok. 
The  money  raised  through  Bulba,  and  given  to  the  Lamas  and  Gompas, 
is  again  believed  to  be  indirectly  helpful  to  the  dead.  The  religious  forces, 
it  is  thought,  manage  to  provide  economic  help  in  the  next  life.  Also, 
the  Ladakhis  feel  that  it  creates  conditions  which  help  manage  rebirth  in 
a  better  category.  Sending  of  Bulba  money  to  Gompas  is  also  believed  to 
provide  protection  against  the  spirit  or  ghost  of  the  dead. 

Langanj  is  a  rite  which  involves  performance  of  worship  by  the  Lamas, 
as  also  a  feast  organised  for  invitees.  The  family  members  of  the  dead 
organise  it  after  one  month  of  death.  The  Phasphuns  carry  food  and 
other  eatables.  Almost  all  the  villagers  come  to  participate.  Langanj 
helps  remove  the  sins  of  the  dead  so  that  the  entry  into  new  birth  becomes 

Zipchu-Yargoo  or  Zarju 

This  again  refers  to  a  worship  organised  on  49th  day  after  the  death 
of  a  person.  Zipchu-Yargoo  is  not  the  final  ceremonial  worship  related 
to  death.  Rather  it  is  one  in  the  chain.  On  this  occasion  too  the 
Lamas  are  invited  in  the  house  of  the  dead.  They  read,  as  a  part  of  cere¬ 
mony,  the  sacred  literature  from  morning  till  evening.  In  return  they  are 
served  food  and  drinks.  Some  families  may  offer  money.  The  rela¬ 
tives  are  again  invited  on  Zarbu.  For  close  relatives  the  participation  in 
Zipchu-Yargoo  is  obligatory  under  the  kinship  rules.  Reciprocity  forms 
the  basis  of  such  participation.  The  relatives  and  other  villagers  come  to 
participate  carrying  pots  of  Chang  and  Gur  Gur.  The  functional  impor¬ 
tance  of  Zipchu-Yargoo  is  again  connected  to  the  welfare  of  dead.  It 
is  further  believed  that  the  spirit  of  dead  may  assume  a  revengeful  attitude 
if  such  a  ceremonial  worship  is  not  arranged  for.  The  dead  men’s  spirit 
is  believed  to  visit  the  family  on  49th  day.  And  the  same  is  satisfied  to 
see  the  Zarju  going  on. 


Turen  or  Sizak 

Turen  corresponds  to  death  anniversary  involving  a  ceremonial  wor¬ 
ship.  In  the  annual  cycle  Turen  forms  the  final  ceremony  organized  for 
the  dead.  The  Lamas  are  informed  of  the  day.  They  come  with  their 
scared  literature.  The  relatives  also  come  to  participate.  Sufficient 
quantity  of  Chang,  Gur  Gur  and  food  are  prepared  to  be  served  to  the 



Lamas  and  the  relatives.  Some  of  the  villagers  also  participate  and  are 
served  food  and  drinks.  The  death  anniversary  is  celebrated  for  three 
consecutive  years.  It  is  given  up  later  on.  The  departed  soul  is  remembered 
and  revered  through  Sizak.  No  trouble  is  anticipated  after  that.  Turen, 
alongwith  other  religious  rites  connected  to  death,  is  believed  to  help 
achieve  salvation.  By  doing  so  the  spirit  of  the  dead  fails  to  take  a  bad 
attitude  to  the  family  members  left  behind.  The  Ladakhis  are  of  the 
opinion  that  if  Turen  is  not  performed,  the  spirit  might  trouble  not  only 
the  family  members  but  also  other  villagers.  Some  also  opine  that  death 
rites  are  meant  to  take  the  dead  to  heaven.  Otherwise,  it  may  turn  to 
hell.  Mane,  Chortens  (religious  structures)  and  the  residence  of  the 
bereaved  family  are  plastered  with  white  clay  on  the  occasion  of  Turen. 

After  the  death  in  a  house,  and  sometimes  in  normal  course,  the  Lada¬ 
khis  go  in  for  Samgo-Namgo.  Latter  is  a  model  made  out  of  clay  paste, 
long  grass  pieces  and  the  skull  of  a  goat  or  sheep.  The  material  is  so 
arranged  that  it  resembles  human  figure.  Samgo-Namgo  is  made  on  the 
front  wall,  adjoining  to  the  main  entrance  of  the  house.  The  skull  is 
so  fixed  that  it  forms  the  upper  portion  of  the  figure.  It  is  covered  by  the 
grass.  Down  below  the  skull  are  made  the  body  parts.  This  is  done  with 
clay  paste.  The  lower  portion  is  again  of  the  dry  grass  fixed  in  clay  paste. 
The  human  figures  guards  against  the  ghosts  (especially  Shinde)  and  evil 
spirits.  Samgo-Namgo  is  competent  to  drive  away  the  ghosts  and  evil 
spirits.  Every  house  of  the  Ladakhis  is  seen  having  Samgo-Namgo.  Its 
formation  provides  them  confidence  in  terms  of  protection  against  male¬ 
volent  supernaturals. 


Purkhang  refers  to  death  memorial  built  by  the  Ladakhis.  This  is 
specially  done  in  case  of  socially  superior  persons,  including  Lamas.  The 
memorial  is  a  rectangular  or  circular  structure.  It  is  made  out  of  sand, 
clay  and  unbaked  briks  which  the  Ladakhis  prepare  themselves.  Pur¬ 
khang  is  generally  in  the  cremation  gour.d,  and  in  many  a  cases  on  the  same 
spot  where  the  person  was  cremated.  That’s  why  the  structure  made  for 
cremation  is  also,  at  times,  referred  as  Purkhang.  The  structure  is  well 
plastered  from  cutside.  The  measurements  of  death  memorial  are  not 
fixed  and  one  can  see  them  of  different  sizes,  though  of  the  same  shape. 
Most  of  these  structures  are,  however,  about  five  feet  in  height  and  about 
four  feet  in  diameter.  Construction  of  Purkhang  is  the  responsibility 
of  family  members  alone.  The  Phasphuns  and  the  Lamas  have  nothing 
to  do.  From  inside  the  structure  is  kept  hollow.  Some  keep  small 
models  made  out  of  clay  and  ashes  remains  of  the  dead  in  the  hollow  space. 
These  models,  imprinted  with  scared  words  and  about  six  inches  long  and 
two  to  three  inches  in  width,  resemble  the  human  figure. 

Mini  Manes  are  also  prepared  out  of  crushed  bone  powder  and  white 
clay.  These  are  known  as  Chhaja  or  Chhacha.  They  are  made  in  the 
name  of  dead.  The  act  is  believed  to  forgive  him  for  all  offences  committed 



in  life-time.  The  offences,  say  killing  of  living  beings,  then  do  not  adver¬ 
sely  reflect  in  the  next  birth. 

Purkhang  is  considered  as  the  most  secured  and  pious  place  for  keeping 
remains  of  the  cremated  ones.  Some  of  the  Purkhangs  are  nicely  main¬ 
tained  with  coloured  designs  made  on  them.  The  colour  designing  is  done 
by  the  Lamas.  But  there  are  Purkhangs  in  dilapidated  condition  too. 
The  Ladakhi  tradition  is  that  such  structures  are  given  new  coats  of  plaster 
at  certain  intervals  of  time.  Under  the  changing  conditions  people  find 
themselves  deeply  engaged  in  new  economic  pursuits  and  are  unable  to 
spare  time  for  repairing  and  plastering  of  Purkhangs.  The  death  memo¬ 
rials  made  for  ordinary  persons  are  known  as  Ronkang.  Purkhang  is 
open  from  one  side  while  Ronkang  is  open  from  the  top  only.  Forty 
Ladakhi  bricks  are  used  for  preparing  Ronkang;  for  Purkhang  it  is 
eighty.  In  case  of  the  death  of  a  Lama,  the  religious  structure,  known 
as  Chorten,  may  also  be  built.  It  is  a  very  attractive  monument  and  houses 
most  of  the  Lamas’s  belongings,  including  sacred  literature.  Such  struc¬ 
tures  are  shown  respect  by  all  the  Ladakhi s  including  the  religious  men. 

The  age  and  certain  other  exceptional  circumstances  have  their  say  in 
death  rituals  and  ceremonies.  In  case  of  children,  below  five  years,  some 
of  the  rites  and  ceremonies,  already  described,  are  not  observed.  Irres¬ 
pective  of  sex,  the  children  of  this  age  are  not  to  be  cremated.  Wrapped 
in  a  coffin  the  dead  body  of  the  child  is  either  put  in  the  river,  or  kept  in 
some  interior  place  in  the  hills.  In  latter  case  the  body  is  kept  in  a  box 
which  is  covered  by  stones.  In  case  of  the  death  of  a  child  some  charity 
is  to  be  made.  This  is  not  resorted  to  in  case  of  the  death  of  an  adult. 
Ceremonies  of  Chhoga  and  Phoa  are  not  observed  in  case  of  the  children. 
This  is  not  done  because  the  child  is  considered  innocent  and  free  from 
all  sins.  Within  such  a  background  the  child,  after  death,  is  automati¬ 
cally  believed  to  take  a  better  rebirth.  In  case  of  the  death  of  pregnant 
woman,  the  body,  alongwith  the  child  in  her  womb,  is  cremated  in  the 
normal  process.  The  cremation  ground  is  separate  for  Lamas.  Other¬ 
wise,  the  procedure  for  disposal  of  a  dead  body  of  Lama  is  not  much 
different.  But  the  performances  in  his  case  are  done  in  Gompa  campus. 
Some  informants  from  Kuyul  have  stated  that  for  reasons  of  fuel  scarcity 
they  have  been,  at  times,  cutting  the  dead  body  into  pieces  and  throwing 
the  same  in  river  or  near  a  hillock  to  be  eaten  up  by  birds  and  wild  animals. 
Now  some  official  agencies  are  working  around  Kuyul  and  other  areas  of 
Chang-Thang  and  the  Ladakhis,  at  times,  procure  fuel  (kerosene)  from 
them  to  cremate  their  dead  bodies.  During  the  course  of  my  field  work 
in  Kuyul,  the  dead  body  of  a  female  was  cremated  with  kerosene  oil. 
Biscoe  (1896)  has  stated  that  dogs  used  to  be  kept  in  lieu  of  graves  for  the 
monks,  or  in  other  words,  to  eat  up  the  dead  members  of  brotherhood. 
The  existence  of  the  practice  is  now  denied.  « 

Skistak  or  Lhaskal  , 

Skistak  is  not  exactly  a  ceremonial  performance.  It  refers  to  a 



religious  painting  made  after  the  death  of  a  person.  The  Ladakhi s  hold 
the  belief  that  all  persons  commit  sin  in  their  life.  Some  do  it  more  than 
others.  A  simultaneous  thinking  is  that  a  person  who  has  committed  more 
sins  in  life  would  fail  to  get  rebirth.  His  or  her  soul  would  roam  around 
and  ultimately  assume  the  form  of  a  malevolent  spirit.  The  degree  of 
committing  sin  is  determined  by  the  Lamas  after  they  go  through  the  sacred 
literature.  In  order  that  the  soul  of  a  sinner  may  not  roam  about,  and 
find  a  suitable  abode,  the  Lamas  suggest  for  the  making  of  a  religious 
painting,  popularly  called  Skistak.  The  family  members  of  the  deceased 
approach  Onpo  who  tells  as  to  what  kind  of  painting  is  to  be  made.  The 
Onpo  does  so  after  the  consultation  of  sacred  literature  and  after  talking 
stock  of  the  day  and  date  of  the  death..  Respecting  Onpo’s  imagination, 
the  Spon,  a  painter,  prepares  the  Skistak.  More  than  one  religious 
agencies  are,  thus,  inlovled.  in  removing  the  sins  of  the  departed  soul.  At 
the  same  time  these  agencies  seem  to  be  fairly  compromising  in  the  sense 
that  something  suggested  by  one  is  respected  by  the  other. 


Chham  is  yet  another  worship  connected  to  death.  But  it  is  not 
performed  by  the  Lama  or  any  other  religious  specialist.  Any  male  mem¬ 
ber  of  the  family  can  do  the  job  in  family  worship  room  itself.  He  himself 
reads  the  sacred  literature  meant  for  the  occasion.  The  man  deputed  for 
the  purpose  is  not  disturbed  for  any  other  work.  Even  his  food  is  served 
in  Chhotkang.  The  man  either  reads  or  keeps  on  repeating  the  sacred 
recitations.  At  the  same  time  he  devotes  to  the  counting  of  beads  of  a 
sacred  necklace.  Duration  of  Chham  is  not  defined  and  the  man  may 
remain  engaged  from  a  few  months  to  an  year.  The  main  objective  of 
Chham  is  to  show  the  way  to  the  departed  soul.  Though  Chham  has 
a  religious  significance  it  is  not  necessarily  observed  in  all  the  cases.  At 
times  the  families  are  not  in  a  position  to  spare  a  man  for  the  purpose 
of  Chham.  Then  the  rites  and  cremonies  performed  by  the  Lamas 
and  other  religous  men  are  taken  as  more  important  and  effective  than 
those  of  the  ordinary  men. 

Death  taboo 

The  prohibitions  connected  to  death,  are  not  many.  One  of  the 
prominent  taboos  could.,  however,  be  reported  from  Sabu.  This  concerns 
the  spouse  of  the  dead  person.  When  a  man  dies,  his  wife  is  not  allowed 
to  cross  the  water  channels  flowing  in  the  village.  The  same  would  be 
applicable  to  the  husband  if  his  wife  dies.  The  taboo  is  imposed  from  the 
time  the  dead  body  is  cremated. 

The  Ladakhis  believe  that  crossing  of  the  channel  would  annoy  the 
gods  responsible  for  water  supply.  It  is  further  feared  that  the  god.,  out 
of  anger,  may  dry  up  the  channel  causing  damage  to  crops  and  hardship 
to  the  villagers.  To  respond  to  the  situation  the  person  concerned  either 



stays  back  in  the  house  for  a  period  of  one  month,  or  manages  to  live 
in  the  house  of  a  Phasphun  provided  the  location  of  this  house  is  such 
that  the  person  has  not  to  cross  any  water  channel  during  the  course  of  his 
outdoor  movements.  In  the  absence  of  such  an  alternative  arrangement, 
the  person  may  stay  in  a  tent  temporarily  erected  in  the  fringe  of  the  village. 
He  or  she  then  need  not  cross  over  the  water  channels.  The  food  and 
other  material  may  be  supplied  to  him  there  only.  It  has  been  reported 
that  the  practice  of  living  in  tent  in  the  village  outskirts  has  become  more 
popular  after  the  Ladakhis  got  into  employment.  Sometimes  a  man, 
after  the  death  of  his  wife,  may  not  afford  to  be  absent  from  duty  for  a 
period  of  one  month.  A  labourer  on  daily  wage  basis  cannot  economi¬ 
cally  afford  to  be  away  for  a  month.  So  he  stays  in  tent,  outside  the 
village,  and  goes  to  attend  his  duty  without  crossing  any  water  channel 
of  the  village.  If  the  taboo  is  not  observed  it  may  pose  danger  not  only 
to  a  particular  person  or  family  but  to  the  village  community  as  a  whole. 
As  such,  all  are  particular  for  the  observance  of  the  taboo.  And  the 
lately  developed  alternative  arragement  helps  them  do  the  same,  even 
when  they  have  to  go  out  to  serve. 


Economic  Structure 

Agriculture  has  been  the  major  economy  of  the  JLadakhis.  It  con¬ 
tinues  to  form  the  major  source  of  livelihoods  Men,  women,  children 
and  aged  are  found  engaged  in  one  or  the  other  agriculture  activity.  In 
busy  agriculture  season  all  have  to  contribute  to  extract  the  maximum 
produce.  There  being  only  one  agriculture  season  in  a  year,  the  Ladakhis 
have  to  be  more  industrious.  Because  of  the  extreme  cold  nothing  grows 
in  winter  season.  The  cultivable  land  holdings  are  limited.  The  total 
land  under  cultivation  is  slightly  over  0.2%  of  the  total  area  of  the  dis¬ 
trict.  The  major  part  of  Ladakh  consists  of  mountains,  rivers  and  valleys. 
The  cultivable  land  patches  are  available  along  the  streams  and  slopes, 
as  also  on  some  lower  hills.  The  soil  is  of  three  types,  that  is,  Zung  Zing 
or  fertile,  Thazing  or  sandy  and  Dorat  or  less  productive  with  pebbles  and 
slopes.  From  May  to  the  middle  of  October,  the  Ladakhis  chiefly  devote 
to  agriculture  operations.  Some  flexibility  can  be  reported  as  the  sowing 
and  harvesting  times  are  regulated  by  the  weather  conditions  and  altitude. 
The  sowing  and  harvesting  operations  are  always  accompanied  by  the  sing¬ 
ing  of  songs.  In  spite  of  putting  hard  work,  the  Ladakhis  get  insufficient 
produce.  As  the  rainfall  is  extremely  meagre  the  fields  are  irrigated  with 
river  water.  The  arrangement  is  not  adequate  to  meet  the  requirement. 
Lack  of  irrigation  apart,  the  climate  too  is  not  favourable  to  the  agricul¬ 
turists.  Untimely  frost  and  snow  damage  the  crops  when  they  are  about 
to  ripe.  Over  and  above  the  soil  is  not  fertile.  In  this  regard  the  account 
given  by  Moorecraft  (1937)  is  not  yet  out  of  date.  Accordingly,  the  soil 
consists  almost  entirely  of  the  disintegrated  rocks  torn  to  pieces  and 
crumbled  by  the  successive  congelation  and  thaw  of  water  in  their  crevices 
and  chasms,  a.nd  by  the  action  of  snow  and  torrents  upon  their  surfaces. 
The  mountains  being  for  the  most  part  primitive,  the  decomposition  of 
the  granite  and  felspar  clothes  the  levels  with  a  coating  of  clay,  sand,  gravel 
and  pebbles,  which  is  only  rendered  productive  by  human  industry  and 
skill.  Now  the  chemical  fertilizers  are  also  used  by  some  farmers,  especia¬ 
lly  those  who  grow  vegetable  in  villages  around  Leh.  In  the  absence  of 
wood,  the  cow-dung  is  mostly  consumed  as  fuel.  The  Ladakhis  use  the 
ashes  as  a  nutritive  substance  for  soil.  The  human  excreta  and  surplus 
cow  dung  are  also  used  for  the  purpose.  Each  Ladakhi  house  has, 
preferably  on  the  ground  floor,  a  lavatory.  There  is  a  big  hole  in  the  floor 
of  one  of  the  first  floor  rooms.  To  respond  to  the  call  of  nature,  all 




members  of  family  use  the  hole.  Thus,  the  excreta  keeps  on  piling  up 
on  the  ground  floor.  The  ash  is  also  thrown  in  the  same  room.  After 
responding  to  the  call  of  nature,  the  Ladakhis  thrown  sand  over  the 
excreta.  The  urine  of  all  sorts  of  animals,  mixed  in  the  sand,  is  also  used 
as  compost.  All  these  items  keep  on  piling  up  till  they  are  removed  to 
the  fields  once  a  year,  most  likely  in  the  month  of  May.  The  garbage  serves 
as  manure  to  the  soil.  Having  lavatory  in  the  house  serves  another 
purpose.  In  the  severe  winter  people  need  not  go  out  of  the  house  to 
respond  to  the  call  of  nature.  It  is  an  adjustment  with  the  ecology,  and 
the  waste  helps  achieve  more  agriculture  yield.  Animal  husbandry, 
horticulture,  service  etc.,  are  other  occupations  in  which  the  Ladakhis 
are  engaged. 

Grim,  a  variety  of  barley  is  grown  almost  upto  the  height  of  14,000 
feet  above  sea  level.  There  are  a  few  varieties  of  barley  whose  ripening 
time  differs.  Wheat  and  beans  are  also  grown  by  the  Ladakhis.  The 
buck  wheat  (early  variety),  with  its  various  varieties,  is  grown.  In  and 
around  Leh,  and  at  some  other  places  at  lower  heights,  the  Ladakhis  grow 
vegetables.  In  Spituk,  Sabu  and  Thiksay,  vegetables  like  cabbage,  carrot, 
cauliflower,  brinjal,  potato,  turnips,  onions,  etc.,  are  grown.  Salad  is 
grown  all  around  vegetable  plots.  Those  who  do  vegetable  cultivation 
on  scientific  lines  earn  more  money.  Norbu,  from  Spituk,  sold  vegetables 
worth  Rs.  3500/-  from  a  field,  of  8  Kanal  in  one  season  only.  Some  of  the 
Ladakhis  have  also  started  consuming  these  vegetables.  No  vegetables 
are  grown  in  Kuyul  because  of  its  being  at  a  greater  height.  Though  some 
of  the  vegetables  were  introduced  by  the  Christian  missionaries  as  early 
as  the  beginning  of  first  quarter  of  the  current  century,  their  large  scale 
production  started  only  after  1960.  This  happened  with  big  influx  of 
population  from  other  parts  of  the  country.  The  imigrants  encouraged 
vegetable  growing  by  giving  special  incentive  to  Ladakhis.  There  is  too 
much  demand  for  fresh  vegetables.  Cooperative  Societies  have  been 
formed  to  regularise  purchase  and  sale  of  vegetables.  In  the  Vegetable 
Cooperative  Society,  there  is  an  executive  committee  consisting  of  a 
President,  Secretary  and  five  members.  It  looks  after  vegetables,  fruits 
and  grass  sale.  They  get  a  military  transport  to  go  to  different  villages. 
Days  are  fixed  for  vegetable  collection.  Producers  keep  it  ready  and  the 
Society  Secretary,  with  transport,  comes  and  takes  it  to  Army  Supply 
Department.  Against  the  quantity  procured  each  producer  is  given  a 
receipt  which  he  produces  in  Cooperative  Bank  to  get  money  from  tbrre. 

A  vital  role  in  encouraging  vegetable  cultivation  has  been  played  by 
the  Field  Research  Laboratory,  Mutse.  They  own  a  farm  of  about  40 
acres.  This  military  farm  has  done  some  extension  work.  The  Ladakhi 
farmers  visit  the  farm  to  get  free  vegetable  seedlings.  The  technical 
know-how  and  the  use  of  chemical  fertilizers  are  also  diffused.  But  still  the 
vegetable  growing  is  not  done,  in  general,  on  scientific  lines.  Vegetable 
cultivation  is  also  hindered  by  lack  of  irrigation. 

Conditioned  by  high  altitude  the  Ladakhis  initiate  agriculture  opera- 



tions  around  April-May.  From  inside  the  house,  the  compost  is  taken 
out  and  kept  in  open  for  10  to  15  days.  Then  it  is  carried  to  the  fields 
and  kept  there  in  small  heaps  at  different  places.  Donkeys  are  used  for 
transportation  of  compost.  The  field  is  then  watered  and  left  for  7  to  8 
days.  This  is  followed  by  the  spraying  of  compost  with  the  help  of  an 
implement  called  Khim.  The  soil  is  then  ploughed  with  the  help  of  a  pair 
of  Zos.  Some  make  use  of  horses  and  yaks  for  ploughing.  The  man 
does  the  ploughing  and  the  woman  keeps  on  throwing  seeds  in  the  furrows. 
Man  can  also  do  the  latter  job.  Simultaneously  some  big  clods  and 
stones  are  either  broken,  or  thrown  out  of  the  field.  The  activity  is 
accompanied  with  the  singing  of  songs.  At  times,  one  can  see  number 
of  ploughs  operating  in  the  same  field.  This  is  locally  termed  Hang-De. 
All  the  agriculturist  families  are  not  in  possession  of  pair  of  Zos,  plough 
and  leveller.  And  hence  they  depend  on  each  other  for  certain  articles 
needed  in  sowing  operation.  Therefore,  it  is  done  on  cooperative  lines  on 
the  principle  of  reciprocity.  To  keep  it  up  the  irrigation  is  so  arranged 
that  all  fields  do  not  require  sowing  at  a  time.  Those  not  having  Zos 
can  hire  them  for  ploughing  purpose.  The  hiring  rate  is  Rs.  20/-  per  day 
for  a  Zo.  The  practice  is  known  as  Zorla.  Fodder  for  Zo  is  managed.  Men 
engaged  for  the  purpose  get  Rs.  5/-  each  per  day.  The  beds  are  prepared 
after  the  germination  of  seed.  This  is  followed  by  watering  the  field.  If 
it  does  not  rain  the  field  is  required  to  be  irrigated  ten  to  fifteen  times.  If 
it  remains  cloudy,  the  irrigation  requirement  would  be  curtailed. 

Agriculture  and  religion  are  inter-related.  The  ploughing  of  the  field 
is  usually  started  in  consultation  with  Kushok.  The  latter  suggests 
auspicious  day  for  the  purpose.  The  day  to  start  harvesting  is  also  fixed 
after  consultation  with  the  head  Lama.  A  day,  earlier  to  the  start  of 
harvesting,  is  celebrated  Shubla.  Men  from  farming  families  visit  each 
other,  especially  the  relatives,  and  consume  lot  of  Chang  and  Gur  Gur. 
In  the  early  morning  of  this  day  all  adult  men  go  to  the  Kushok  and 
present  him  some  ear-heads  of  wheat.  He  gives  his  blessings  and  they 
all  dance  with  joy.  Again  in  the  evening  the  villagers  visit  Gompa.  It 
may  be  pointed  out  that  a  large  portion  of  the  cultivable  land,  in  a  village, 
is  in  the  name  of  Gompa.  Its  entire  produce  goes  to  Gompa.  For 
instance,  in  Spituk:,  out  of  a  total  cultivable  land  area  of  1952  Kanal  and 
9  Marlas,  436  Kanals  and  2  Marlas  are  in  the  possession  of  Gompa.  Some 
owners  may  also  let  out  their  land  to  Gompa  on  certain  terms  of  tenancy. 
From  next  day  of  Shubla  starts  the  harvesting  of  crops.  It  may  be  stated 
that  such  a  performance  is  done  for  major  crops.  If  somebody  is  growing 
vegetables  and  if  it  is  ripened  he  can  collect  it  without  Shubla.  Coopera¬ 
tion  is  cultivated  in  harvesting  too.  The  Ladakhis  extend  mutual  help. 
The  neighbours  and  relatives  help  in  harvesting  on  the  principle  of  recipro¬ 
city.  Rut  if  man  is  engaged  on  payment  basis,  he  is  paid  at  the  rate  of 
Rs.  5/-  a  day,  plus  all  meals.  A  woman  gets  full  meals  and  Rs.  4/-  per  day. 
The  harvested  crop  is  arranged  in  small  bundles.  It  is  then  transported 
to  the  threshing  floor,  Every  family  prepares  its  own  threshing  floor 



preferably  near  the  house.  Men  and  women  do  the  transportation  of 
produce  from  fields  to  the  threshing  floor.  The  produce  is  carried  on  the 
backs.  The  bulk  is  then  arranged  in  smaller  dom-shaped  heaps,  the 
ear-heads  facing  upward.  This  is  to  dry  it  up.  Threshing  is  done  with 
the  aid  of  domesticated  animals  like  Zos,  cows,  yaks  etc.  They  are  made 
to  move  over  the  produce  in  circular  fashion.  The  grain  is  then  separated 
by  throwing  the  crushed  produce  in  the  air.  It  is  done  with  the  help  of 
forked  sticks,  about  5  to  6  feet  long.  The  husk  is  blown  little  away  from 
the  grain.  The  husk  is  used  as  fodder.  The  grain  is  partly  stored  and 
partly  made  into  flour,  depending  upon  family  requirement.  Sufficient 
quantity  of  flour,  made  out  of  baked  and  unbaked  grain,  is  stored  for 
winter  use.  The  flour  mills,  operated  by  water,  do  not  work  in  winter 
because  the  water  gets  frozen.  So  they  have  to  keep  sufficient  flour  for 
winter  use. 

That  agriculture  has  its  religious  dimensions  is  further  supported  by 
the  performance  of  a  variety  of  worship.  Chha-Chhush  is  one  such  wor¬ 
ship  organised  by  three  Lamas.  When  the  Ladakhis  observe  that  the 
wheat  plants  are  getting  yellowish  in  pre-mature  stage,  they  become 
alert.  Such  yellowness  is  believed  to  spoil  the  crop  and  cause  decrease  in 
yield.  As  a  counter-check  is  performed  Chha-Chhush.  The  worship 
invloves  reading  of  sacred  literature.  Towards  the  end  of  worship  a  skin 
ball  is  carried,  in  turn,  by  the  Lamas  to  the  affected  fields.  The  Lamas 
go  round  the  fields  with  the  accompaniment  of  ringing  of  bells  and  the 
sound  of  striking  gongs.  Then  the  skin  ball  is  thrown  in  the  river.  The 
belief  is  that  crop  disease  goes  off  with  the  ball.  Another  belief  is  that 
if  the  ball,  with  the  flow  of  water,  reaches  to  some  other  village,  the 
crops  of  the  latter  may  be  affected  adversely.  It  would  be  more  so  if  some¬ 
one  happens  to  break  open  the  ball.  In  that  case  the  people  of  the  next 
village  would  also  observe  Chha-Chhush. 

Likewise  Sarak-Doldol,  a  worship,  is  performed  to  protect  the  crops 
from  pests.  It  can  also  be  performed  when  the  attack  of  the  pest  has 
already  been  felt.  As  a  precautionary  measure  Sarak-Doldol  is  performed 
once  a  year,  especially  after  the  ear-heads  shoot  up  and  are  about  to  ripe. 
Almost  all  the  families  do  it.  Five  to  six  Lamas,  and  even  more,  are 
invited  to  the  peasant’s  house.  They  read  the  concerned  sacred  literature 
for  nearly  six  hours.  Prior  to  the  start  of  reading,  a  heavy  mass  of  clay 
is  collected  from  near  a  water  source  and  kept  in  front  of  the  images  of 
gods  and  goddesses  of  Chotkang.  After  the  reading  is  over,  the  Lamas 
blow  air  towards  the  clay  heap.  Then  the  clay  heap  is  converted  into 
powdery  substance  and  thrown  over  the  crops  in  all  the  fields.  The 
Ladakhis  are  of  the  belief  that  the  powdery  substance  acts  as  a  pesticide. 

It  is  further  reported  that  the  Ladakhis  recognise  spirits  that  are 
believed  to  preside  over  agriculture.  In  order  to  appease  such  spirits  the 
Ladakhi  farmers  perform  a  ritual.  At  the  time  of  every  harvesting,  a  few 
plants,  alongwith  ear-heads,  are  bundled  together  and  tied  round  the 
central  pillar  of  the  house.  In  the  central  hall  of  every  house  of  a  Ladakhi 



peasant  one  often  finds  such  bundles  tied  to  the  pillar.  The  bundles  serve 
as  offering. 

Religion  apart,  the  agriculture  has  an  important  relationship  with 
weather.  Snowfall  has  a  direct  bearing  on  irrigation.  When  the  snow 
covered  peaks  start  melting  the  water  flows  down.  The  Ladakhis  make 
use  of  the  same  for  irrigation.  The  river  water  is  also  used  for  the  pur¬ 
pose.  But  the  river  water  cannot  be  lifted  to  the  fields  at  higher  elevation. 
In  such  cases  the  sma.ll  channels  emanating  from  the  melting  of  snow  serve 
the  purpose.  And  when  the  snowfall  on  the  peaks  is  less,  the  people 
suffer.  Therefore  heavy  snowfall  is  always  prayed  for  so  that  the  crops 
are  well  irrigated.  The  lesser  the  snowfall  greater  the  scarcity  of  irriga¬ 
tion  water. 

In  Spituk,  which  is  considered  agriculturally  a  progressive  village, 
the  yield  can  be  as  high  as  eight  times  of  the  wheat  sown.  But  the  average 
is  about  four  times  of  the  quantity  of  seed  sown.  In  case  of  barley,  the 
yield  can  be  as  high  as  five  times  of  the  quantity  sown.  The  Grim  is 
about  three  times.  It  may  be  mentioned  tha,t  12  Batti  of  wheat  or  barley 
or  Grim  is  sown  in  one  Kanal  of  land.  The  measure  of  grain  are  Batti 
and  Khal,  and  the  measure  of  land  is  Kanal  and  Marla.  One  Batti  weighs 
two  seers,  and  six  Battis  a  Khal.  One  Khal  is  equal  to  four  Bo,  and  one 
Bo  is  equal  to  five  Te.  In  terms  of  land  measure  twenty  Marla  is  equal 
to  one  Kanal,  and  eight  Kanal  is  equal  to  one  acre. 

Most  of  the  Ladakhis  own  land  and  cultivate  by  themselves.  Those 
in  service  let  out  their  land  to  the  tenants.  Tenancy  is  either  on  contract 
basis,  or  involves  an  understanding  that  the  tenant  and  the  owner  would 
equally  share  the  produce.  Some  land  owners  ask  for  twice  the  quantity 
of  Khal  sown,  without  their  being  investing  anything.  Some  may  even 
ask  for  more,  depending  upon  the  fertility  of  the  fields  let  out  to  the  tenant. 
The  grass,  in  and  around  the  fields,  as  also  the  fodder  are  normally  retained 
by  the  tenant.  There  are  others  who  manage  to  get  their  fields  sown  but 
are  unable  to  irrigate  the  same  as  they  remain  out.  In  that  case  they 
request  somebody  else  to  do  the  needful.  When  a  person  engages  some¬ 
one  to  irrigate  10  Kanals  of  land  (for  crop  season  only),  he  pays  him  two 
Maunds  of  wheat  or  Sattu.  He  also  gets  food  for  the  days  he  waters 
the  fields..  The  organization  of  irrigation  system,  under  the  condition  of 
scarcity,  is  an  important  feature.  The  channels  are  to  be  maintained  and 
regulated.  For  this  purpose  are  engaged  the  Chirpons.  The  villagers 
do  so  collectively.  A  Chripon  is  one  who  channelises  irrigation  to  avoid 
any  wastage  of  water.  He  maintains  that  everybody  gets  the  due  share  on 
his  turn.  The  Chirpons  see  that  the  channels  are  not  damaged  and 
leaking.  They  do  inform  of  the  turn  to  the  person  concerned  and  make 
him  sound  of  time  when  water  would  be  released  in  his  fields.  The 
person  is  also  asked  to  keep  the  water  channels  in  order.  The  Chirpons 
work  for  about  six  months  in  agriculture  season.  Each  family  gives 
Rs.  3/-  to  Rs.  4/-  or  about  2  Ba.tti  of  grain  to  Chirpon.  Whenever  he  visits 
any  house  during  the  season  he  is  offered  Gur  Gur  and  food.  Similarly 



the  payments  are  fixed  for  the  watchman  of  the  crops.  He  is  known  as 
Lorapa.  The  agreement  between  the  watchman  and  the  owner  of  the 
crops  is  made  on  seasonal  basis.  From  geimination  till  harvesting  the 
watchman  is  to  look  after  the  crops.  The  payment  for  this  service  is 
made  in  kind  .  In  most  of  the  cases  the  payment  is  arranged  in  advance. 
According  to  the  prevalent  rate  in  Kuyul,  the  crop  watchman,  looking 
after  the  fields  sown  with  30  Eattis  of  grain,  is  to  be  given  13  Battis  of 
grain,  half  a  Batti  of  butter  and  nearly  half  Batti  of  tea.  No  money 
is  paid.  A  common  watchman  can  be  jointly  engaged  by  a  few  families 
so  that  no  damage  is  done  by  the  men  and  animals  to  the  crops.  Each 
family  pays  as  per  the  area  sown.  The  watchman  guarantees  the  protec¬ 
tion  of  crops  except  in  case  of  some  natural  calamity.  A  Mon  or  Beda 
usually  acts  as  watchman  and  is  given  his  due. 

The  systems  of  Chirpon  and  Lorapa  bear  a  long  history.  A  large 
number  of  able-bodied  persons  among  the  Ladakhis  have  been,  since  past, 
going  out  with  the  flocks  of  goat  and  sheep,  making  somebody 
responsible  for  their  crops.  The  requirement  further  aggravated  because  in 
addition  to  going  out  with  flocks,  some  Ladakhis  are  now  engaged  in 
services  and  hence  remain  out.  Lorapa  of  Sabu  is  engaged  on  different 
terms.  He  works  for  about  four  months  and  every  family  gives  him  one 
Batti  of  Grim.  But  he  has  another  source  of  income.  When  he  finds 
an  animal  eating  the  crop  he  reports  it  to  the  owner  of  the  crop, 
as  also  to  the  owner  of  the  animal.  He  also  tends  this  animal  to  a  parti¬ 
cular  place  and  does  not  let  it  free  till  the  owner  of  animal  makes  the 
prescribed  penalty.  The  amount  of  penalty  goes  to  Lorapa.  The 
penalty  rates  are  fixed.  It  is  five  rupees  for  a  cow,  ten  rupees  for  a  horse, 
five  rupees  for  Zo,  three  rupees  for  donkey  and  one  rupee  each  for  goat 
and  sheep. 

Improved  agriculture  practices 

In  respect  of  adoption  of  improved  and  approved  agriculture  practices 
the  position  varies  from  village  to  village.  The  Bhotos  of  Kuyul  have  not 
adopted  any  improved  agriculture  practice.  They  continue  to  do  farming 
with  primitive  tools  and  techniques.  The  only  crop  grown  is  Grim,  and 
that  too  with  primitive  method.  What  to  talk  of  adoption,  the  Kuyul 
farmers  have  not  even  heard  of  chemical  fertilizers,  improved  seeds  and 
implements  pestides  and  technical  know-how.  Their  agriculture  yield 
is  very  poor.  They  stress  more  on  livestock  rearing. 

Contrary  to  Kuyul,  the  position  in  Spituk,  Sabu  and  Thiksy  is 
better.  In  these  villages  wheat  is  the  main  crop  grown.  The  Ladakhis 
also  grow  barley  and  Grim.  Even  these  villagers  grew  more  of  Grim  in 
the  past.  But  lately  they  have  switched  on  to  wheat.  Some  farmers  have 
tried  new  varieties  of  wheat.  However,  it  could  not  be  popular  for  certain 
drawbacks.  In  comparison  to  other  crops  the  new  variety  of  wheat 
ripened  early  and  it  become  difficult  to  protect  it  from  the  menace  of 



birds.  And  hence  most  of  the  villagers  did  not  use  it  again.  The  improved 
and  new  vegetable  seeds  are  being  tried,  except  in  case  of  Kuyul.  The 
chemical  fertilizers  are  known  to  the  farmers  of  Spituk  though  its  use  is 
still  limited.  The  same  holds  true  for  Sabu  and  Thiksay.  A  common 
complaint  against  the  use  of  chemical  fertilizers  is  that  its  addition  causes 
good  growth,  including  height,  of  the  plants.  The  longer  plants  cannot 
stand  the  fast  winds  that  blow  in  Ladakh.  The  crop,  thus,  suffers  from 
lodging.  Secondly  the  irrigation  requirement  is  more  when  the  chemical 
fertilizers  are  used.  Under  the  existing  arrangement  of  irrigation,  it  is 
difficult  to  meet  the  additional  requirement  of  water.  And  if  the  adequate 
irrigation  is  not  done  the  plants  become  yellow  and  die  out.  In  Spituk, 
however,  the  irrigation  arrangement  has  scope  for  improvement.  There 
is  also  the  scope  for  popularizing  improved  practices  provided  the  exten¬ 
sion  agents  undertake  the  pains  to  do  so.  Ammonium  Sulphate  has 
already  found  favour  with  many  Ladakhi  farmers.  The  least  known  of 
the  improved  inputs  are  the  insecticides.  Most  of  them  are  neither  aware 
of  nor  make  use  of  the  same.  It  is  also  true  that  the  crop  pests  and 
diseases  are  comparatively  less  in  Ladakh.  Pesticides  are  not  much  of 
a  necessity  to  them  is  the  feeling  of  some  Ladakhi  farmers.  Protection 
against  pest  and  disease  is  believed  to  be  provided  through  the  performance 
of  a  worship.  The  agriculture  implements  are  of  the  traditional  kind. 
Belcha  is  the  only  later  addition  caused  after  the  induction  of  army.  It 
is  mainly  used  when  irrigating  a  field.  Most  of  the  farmers  have  yet  to 
see  the  improved  implements,  their  adoption  would  come  later.  A  few 
of  the  Ladakhis,  especially  in  Spituk,  partly  understand  the  technical 
know-how  connected  to  vegetable  cultivation.  For  other  crops  they 
continue  to  depend  on  the  traditional  techniques.  The  high  yielding 
varieties  have  yet  to  reach  them. 


To  be  the  owner  of  land  carries  more  value  and  higher  status  in 
Ladakhi  society.  Those  who  own  land  are  rated  high  not  merely  in  the 
economic  sense  but  also  in  the  arena-  of  social  life.  The  detailed  pattern 
of  gradation  in  Ladakhi  population  has  already  been  discussed  in  the 
chapter  on  social  stratification.  The  land-owners  are  better  off  and  enjoy 
a  better  social  status.  The  landless  ones  and  the  tenants  have  not  much 
of  say  in  the  socio-economic  and  political  life  of  the  Ladakhi  society. 
Kalhons,  the  socially  superiormost  people,  are  the  chief  owners  of  land. 
In  this  aspect  they  occupy  a  position  only  next  to  Gompa.  Goba  and  his 
assistants,  the  Members,  are  always  the  land  owners.  Even  the  religious 
ceremonies  in  a  calender  year  are  more  for  families  owning  land.  The 
agriculture  occupation  itself  is  considered  superior  to  others  reported  in 
Ladakh.  Land  is  again  treated  as  a  prized  possession  of  the  Ladakhis. 
All,  out  of  the  three  hundred  families,  are  not  the  land-owners.  Then 
the  land  holdings  also  differ.  The  following  table  gives  a  detailed  account 
of  the  pattern  of  land-ownership  among  the  Ladakhis. 



Table  showing  the  land-holding  pattern  among  the  Ladakhis 



(in  Kanals) 

No.  of  families 



up  to  10 




10.  1-20 




20.  1-30 




30.  1-40 




40.  1-50 




Above  50 







The  table  reveals  that  more  of  the  Ladakhis  are  owning  land  upto 
30  Kanals.  Those  owning  land  above  50  Kanals  have  been  the  descen¬ 
dants  from  Kalhon  families.  The  Kalhon  families  are  now  the  bigger 
land-holders.  The  landless,  who  form  5.00%  of  the  families,  depend  on 
other  occupations  than  agriculture,  or  work  as  agriculture  labourers. 

There  are  various  ways  of  acquiring  land.  Such  ways  have  always 
existed  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  cultivable  land  in  Ladakh  is  compara¬ 
tively  meagre.  Magpa  system  of  marrying  is  one  of  the  ways.  A  Magpa 
inherits  the  land  in  the  absence  of  any  brother  to  his  wife.  Initially,  the 
land  is  given  to  the  wife  but  finally  transferred  to  Magpa.  Magpa  marriages 
are  regarded  as  the  preferred  ones.  It  is  because  of  the  fact  that  the 
property  is  acquired  through  this  form  of  marriage.  A  Magpa,  according 
to  the  customary  law,  cannot  claim  for  land  and  other  property  from  his 
real  parents.  The  land  is  also  acquired  through  general  inheritance  pro¬ 
cedure.  According  to  the  tratidional  law  of  inheritance,  the  male  (and 
in  the  absence  of  male,  the  female)  primogeniture  system  of  inheritance 
was  maintained  to  prevent  the  fragmentation  of  land  holdings.  The 
Ladakhis  have  been  holding  that  they  have  smaller  cultivable  holdings 
and  their  further  fragmentation,  in  the  absence  of  primogeniture,  would 
be  more  uneconomic.  Under  the  customary  laws  of  inheritance  a 
daughter,  married  as  Bagjna,  cannot  claim  for  parental  property.  When 
the  eldest  son  dies  without  having  any  issue,  the  next  heir  of  the  property 
would  be  the  next  eldest.  Now,  however,  the  pattern  is  different.  All 
are  eligible  to  inherit  the  parental  property,  including  land.  In  the  absence 
of  a  son,  the  daughter  may  inherit.  And  in  the  absence  of  both  the  adop¬ 
ted.  child  may  also  get  the  property.  In  case  a  couple  has  no  issue  and  at 
the  same  time  they  do  not  adopt  a  person,  the  land  either  goes  to  the 
next  heir,  that  is,  brother  or  his  children.  Beyond  that  the  land  left 
unclaimed  is  added  to  the  community  land.  The  land  is  also  transferred 
in  the  name  of  Gompa.  This  happens  when  the  issueless  couple  had  taken 
a  loan,  in  cash  or  kind,  from  the  Gompa  and  subsequently  failed  to  return 



it  till  their  death.  Under  such  circumstances  Gompa  is  authorised  to  take 
possession  of  the  land  of  deceased.  It  may  be  pointed  out  that  Gompa 
is  liberal  in  advancing  loans  to  the  villagers.  Normally  the  loan  is  in  kind 
but  it  can  also  be  in  cash  if  the  need  be.  The  Ladakhis  take  wheat,  Grim, 
butter,  Sattu,  tea,  etc.,  from  the  Gompa.  They  try  to  return  it  within  the 
specified  period  with  some  addition  in  it.  Another  mode  of  land  acquisi¬ 
tion  is  through  purchase.  However,  this  mode  has  its  limitation  chiefly 
for  two  reasons.  Firstly,  there  is  hardly  any  surplus  cultivable  land  which 
a  person  can  propose  to  sell.  Most  of  them  do  not  want  to  part  with  their 
land  possession  because  it  is  something  on  which  they  bank  upon  to  a 
considerable  extent.  Secondly,  even  if  someone,  owning  large  acreage  of 
land,  wants  to  dispose  off  a  part  of  it  the  buyers  are  not  easily  available. 
People  are  keen  to  buy  the  land  but  cannot  afford  to  pay  for  it.  The  land 
rates  quite  high  with  some  variation  from  place  to  place.  For  instance 
in  Spituk,  Sabu  and  Thiksay,  the  prevalent  rate  is  from  Rs.  600/-  to 
Rs.  800/-  per  Kanal.  But  in  Kuyul  a  Kanal  of  land  can  be  had  for  Rs. 
300/-  to  Rs.  400/-.  The  uncultivated  land  is  in  plenty,  though  its  owner¬ 
ship  is  again  defined.  Under  the  changing  conditions  when  efforts  to 
boost  up  agriculture  yield  are  in  progress  and  when  cash  crops  have  been 
introduced,  the  villagers  have  further  realised  the  importance  of  land, 
more  in  terms  of  economic  sense.  The  temporary  acquisition  of  land  is 
also  reported  in  Ladakhi  society.  The  process  does  not  assign  permanent 
ownership.  Under  the  procedure  one  may  get  land  for  cultivation, 
though  ownership  remains  in  the  name  of  the  real  owner.  The 
system  is  different  from  tenancy  because  here  the  men,  who  cultivate,  need 
not  give  any  part  of  the  produce  to  the  owner.  Such  a  temporary  acquisi¬ 
tion  of  land  is  done  through  two  ways.  When  a  famiily  is  suffering  from 
poverty  its  members  are  provided  protection,  if  asked  for,  by  a  rich 
Kalhon  family.  They  are  given  a  place  to  live  a.nd  some  land  to  cultivate. 
In  return  the  members  of  the  family  work  for  Kalhon.  Whatever  they 
grow  on  the  land,  allotted  to  them,  is  theirs.  Sometimes  this  arrange¬ 
ment  continues  for  generations.  The  second  mode  is  when  a  person 
mortgages  his  land.  The  land  acquired  through  mortgage  is  to  be  surren¬ 
dered  back  when  the  accounts  are  cleared.  So  long  as  it  is  not  done  the 
man,  to  whom  the  land  is  mortgaged,  continues  to  cultivate  it  and  enjoy 
the  entire  produce. 

Animal  husbandry 

Animal  husbandry  is  one  of  the  occupations  of  the  Ladakhis.  The 
number  of  animals  reared  by  a  family  indicate  the  economic  status  of  its 
members.  The  consideration  is  that  more  the  number  of  animals  in  a 
house,  the  better  is  its  economic  position.  Rearing  of  livestock  is  done 
at  all  heights.  The  animals  reared,  however,  may  differ  with  the  height. 
Highlanders  mostly  domesticate  sheep,  ponies  and  horses.  For  gracing 
large  flocks  of  sheep,  some  of  the  Ladakhis  move  from  place  to  place. 



TH£  LAftAKtft 

The  movement  is  governed  by  the  availability  of  the  grazing  grounds. 
This  is  normally  along  the  river  banks  and  in  the  valleys.  The  weather 
has  its  own  hand  in  determining  the  directions  of  in  which  the  herders 
move.  In  winter  they  come  down  to  lower  heights;  in  summer  the  flocks 
are  driven  to  higher  altitude  where  the  vegetation  is  available.  As  more 
of  the  hills  are  barren  and  naked,  the  Ladakhis  know  of,  and  move  only 
to  those  where  grazing  facilities  exist.  They  move  with  tents  and  make 
night  halts  at  places  found  convenient  for  the  purpose.  Chiefly  the  men 
go  out  for  this  venture.  Such  a  long  absence  from  the  house  provides 
one  of  the  explanations  in  support  of  polyandry.  When  one  husband  goes 
out  on  mission,  the  other,  staying  back,  would  look  after  the  common 
wife.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  the  Chang-Pas,  the  highlanders,  are 
nomadic  people  who  move  with  their  animals.  Others  are  semi-nomadic, 
and  that  too  only  a  portion  of  population.  The  pastures  are  of  two 
kinds— one  belonging  to  a  family  and  the  other  to  the  village  community. 
In  the  former  case  the  ownership  is  vested  in  the  name  of  the  individual 
and  only  his  animals  graze  there.  But  in  the  community  pasture  anyone 
from  the  village  community  can  graze  the  cattle.  The  same  holds  true  for 
the  government  land.  The  hills  have  also  been  divided  between  the 
villages.  Members  of  each  village  can  identify  the  hills,  alongwith  pas¬ 
tures,  if  any,  belonging  to  them.  Territorial  sanctity  is  maintained  by  the 
members  of  different  villages  and  they  do  not  go  in  for  unauthorised 
entry.  No  encroachment  is  otherwise  permissible. 

In  addition  to  goat,  sheep,  pony  and  horse,  the  Ladakhis  rear  Zho, 
Zhomo,  common  cow,  yak,  donkey  and  dogs.  Zhos  are  used  for  plough¬ 
ing  purpose;  yaks  are  meant  of  transportation  and  the  Zhomos  and 
common  cow  are  the  milch  cattle.  In  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  Ladakhis 
domesticate  so  many  animals  the  milk  production  is  poor.  Sufficient 
quantity  of  fodder  is  not  available  for  the  livestock.  The  position  remains 
so  even  when  the  Ladakhis  try  to  exploit  all  sorts  of  fodder  resource.  The 
Ladakhis  are  very  particular  to  see  that  no  fodder  is  left  unused,  or  wasted. 
Such  an  attitude  has  helped  remove  all  sorts  of  weeds  from  the  fields. 
The  families  having  sufficient  fodder  and  lacking  manpower  do  not  bother 
to  undertake  weeding  operation.  The  rest  make  use  of  every  bit  of  it. 
After  four  weeks  of  sowing,  the  Ladakhi  women  start  weeding  the  fields. 
The  grass  and  weeds  removed  are  used  as  animal  food.  This  kind  of 
weeding  necessitated  by  fodder  scarcity  helps  provide  more  food  to  the 
crops.  Thus,  the  Ladakhis  kill  two  birds  with  one  stone.  The  fields 
are  cleared  of  unwanted  vegetation  and  the  fodder  is  procured  for  the 
animals.  v  - 

Likewise,  the  Ladakhis  are  extremely  careful  at  the  time  of  harves¬ 
ting  of  crops.  They  see  that  the  stem  is  cut  from  very  close  to  the  root 
so  that  the  maximum  of  it  is  available  as  fodder.  Many  a  times  they 
even  pull  the  plants  if  soil  conditions  permit  to  do  that.  But  mostly  they 
cut  it  with  sickle  from  very  close  to  the  ground.  Pulling  up  of  the  plant 
from  the  root  was  more  popular  in  the  past  when  there  was  no  other  possi- 



bility  of  obtaining  fodder  from  outside  as  the  means  of  transportation 
were  then  poor.  That  the  animals  reared  are  almost  double  the  number 
of  human  population  is  attributed  to  specific  requirements  of  the  Ladakhis. 
Yaks,  donkeys  and  Zos  are  used  for  transportation  of  men  and  material. 
At  higher  altitudes,  where  there  is  scarcity  of  oxygen,  man  himself  is 
unable  to  carry  more  weight.  All  families  keep  at  least  one,  if  not  more, 
donkey.  Those  doing  cultivation  keep  Zos,  and  more  needy  ones  rear 
yaks  too.  The  Ladakhis  are  very  fond  of  Gur  Gur.  Most  of  the  time 
they  are  seen  sipping  it.  The  preparation  of  this  tea  requires  huge  quan¬ 
tity  of  batter  in  every  family.  This  butter  is  locally  produced  from  the 
milk  obtained  from  the  domestic  animals.  For  clothing  and  temporary 
shelter  the  Ladakhis  again  obtain  material  from  the  livestock.  From 
yak’s  hair  are  prepared  the  ropes  and  tents.  Woollen  cloth  is  made  out 
of  the  wool  procured  from  sheep  and  goat.  The  Ladakhis  themselves 
spin  and  weave  rough  kind  of  cloth  which  is  quite  good  for  the  climate  of 
Ladakh.  A  major  part  of  fuel,  so  much  required  in  extreme  winter,  is 
obtained  from  animals.  Part  of  it  is  used  as  compost.  The  skin  worn 
by  the  women  on  their  backs,  a  very  common  feature  among  Ladakhi 
women,  is  the  goat  or  sheep  skin.  Such  a  wear  is  not  only  prestigious  but 
also  provides  protection  to  cotton  or  woollen  under-garments  worn  by 
the  ladies.  The  total  livestock  in  possession  of  the  three  hundred  families 
is  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  animals  domesticated 



Domesticated  animals. 

Number  of  animals 






231  •  •  '  • 



99  ‘  ; 









102  ' 








Poultry  birds 




The  table  reveals  that  on  an  average  every  family  domesticates  eleven 
animals.  In  the  severe  winter  the  requirement  for  woollen  clothes  is  more, 
and  so  is  the  number  of  wool-giving  animals. 



In  addition  to  their  own  needs,  the  JLadakhis  had,  in  the  past,  to 
keep  more  milch  animals  to  supply  butter,  milk,  fuel,  etc.,  to  the  then  ruler. 
This  was  done  for  the  king  as  well  as  the  Governors  of  the  districts.  These 
contributions  were  obligatory.  The  Ladakhis  continued  to  be  involved 
in  the  practice  till  the  traditional  political  system  came  to  an  end.  The 
replacement  of  traditional  hierarchy  by  the  new  order  provided  relief  to 
the  people.  But  in  spite  of  the  change  the  decline  in  livestock  population 
has  not  been  significant.  The  animal  population  being  large,  most  of  them 
stay  in  open.  All  of  them  cannot  be  accommodated  under  the  roof. 
For  goat,  sheep  and  yaks  there  are  big  enclosures  for  the  purpose  with 
boundary  wall  to  check  the  fast  winds.  If  the  winter  prolongs  and 
remains  more  severe  many  of  the  animals  meet  death.  But  to  normal 
winter  the  animals  are  well  adjusted. 

Though  all  the  animals  fulfil  one  or  the  other  need  of  the  Ladakhis, 
the  sheep  providing  Pashmina  wool  is  of  much  value  to  them.  This  parti¬ 
cular  wool  has,  over  the  centuries,  been  the  costliest  item  of  export.  In 
past  the  stock  of  Pashmina,  collected  by  the  inhabitants  of  greater  heights, 
was  transported  to  Leh  and  exchanged  with  other  essential  commodities. 
There  were  trade  agents  for  the  purpose.  Lately,  as  the  outsiders  have 
gone  to  all  heights  they  purchase  a  good  quantity  of  this  wool  and  manage 
to  send  it  to  the  plains  of  India  to  get  pull-overs  and  shawls  made  out  of  it. 
This  particular  wool  is  in  great  demand  in  Kashmir  where  Kashmiri  shawls 
of  best  quality  are  made  out  of  it.  Extraction  of  Pashmina  is  a  cumber¬ 
some  process.  Pashmina  is  a  growth  beneath  the  normal  hair  and  just 
above  the  skin.  This  under-fleece  is  taken  out  with  the  help  of  a  particular 
implement.  To  startwith,  the  long  hair  of  the  animal  are  cut  to  smaller 
size  without  disturbing  the  direction  of  its  growth.  Then  a  comb-like 
implement  is  pressed  in  the  reverse  direction  to  the  one  of  hair.  This  is 
moved  along  the  skin,  almost  touching  it.  The  implement  helps  take  out 
Pashmina  along  with  some  hair.  The  hair  are  then  carefully  removed 
from  it.  The  Ladakhi  women  do  it  by  picking  up  with  hands.  It  is  a  very 
long  and  slow  process.  More  the  hair  removed,  the  better  would  be  the 
quality  of  wool. 

In  spite  of  difficult  climatic  conditions  and  scarcity  of  fodder  the 
prices  of  the  animals  are  comparatively  higher.  Not  that  the  milch  cattle 
alone  cost  more,  the  others  too  are  bought  and  sold  at  fairly  high  prices. 
The  background  is  that  these  animals  also  fulfil  many  requirements. 


In  the  lower  regions  the  Ladakhis  grow  apple,  apricots  and  walnut. 
Kuyul  is  at  a  height  of  about  14,200  feet,  and  no  fruit  is  grown  there. 
Apricots  of  various  varieties  continue  to  be  in  surplus.  Previously  these 
weie  dried  in  large  quantity  and  exported  outside  Ladakh.  But  now  the 
demand  for  fresh  apricots  has  increased  because  of  a  vast  influx  of  out¬ 
siders  in  Ladakh,  The  Ladakhis,  by  and  large,  do  not  now  feel  the  nece- 



ssity  of  drying  them  up.  But  still  a  part  of  the  produce  is  dried  up.  It 
does  not  spoil  for  a  few  years.  Export  of  this  product  to  Lhasa  has  since 
long  been  stopped.  According  to  Moorecroft  (1837)  nearly  600  maunds 
of  dried  apricots  were  exported  to  Lhasa  when  he  visited  Ladakh.  Like 
apricot,  the  apples  too  are  of  a  few  varities.  They  are  light,  juicy  and  of 
medium  size.  After  September  the  apples  can  be  stored  for  months 
together.  Because  of  the  cold  they  would  not  spoil.  More  fruit  are  grown 
at  lower  regions,  especially  fr3m  Nuria  to  Kargil  and  in  Nubra  valley. 
The  fruit  trees  strut  flowering  in  April  and  May  and  the  crop  is  ready  by 
August-September.  Some  of  the  apricot  varieties  ripe  early.  There 
are  no  wild  fruits  except  the  orange-coloured  berry.  This  is  consumed 
by  birds  as  well  as  the  human  beings. 

The  forbidding  climate  of  Kuyul  does  not  allow  them  to  grow  any 
fruit  tree.  But  apricots  a.nd  apples  are  grown  in  Spituk,  Sabu  and  Thik- 
say.  There  is  a  big  demand  for  these  fruits.  Apart  from  civilians  from 
outside  Ladakh,  the  largest  buyers  are  the  military  and  semi-military  orga¬ 
nizations.  The  Ladakhis  are  paid  the  prices  demanded  by  them.  Apples 
are  sold  by  number  and  not  by  weight.  The  civil  administration  in  Ladakh 
is  making  efforts  to  expand  the  horticulture  activities.  Better  quality 
fruit  plantation  is  being  introduced  in  lower  regions,  keeping  stock  of 
their  survival  under  local  conditions.  The  increasing  demand  of  fruits 
against  cash  payment  has  given  incentive  to  the  fruit  growers.  The 
horticulture  activities  are  on  way  to  expansion. 

Subsidiary  occupations 

In  addition  to  agriculture,  horticulture  and  animal  husbandry,  there 
are  other  occupations  having  important  place  in  the  economy  of  Ladakhis. 
Among  Ladakhis,  more  so  around  Leh  and  Spituk,  wage-earning  has 
rapidly  expanded.  As  the  construction  activities  fast  developed  during 
the  last  about  two  d.eca.des,  the  Ladakhis  got  ample  opportunities  for 
wage-earning.  A  large  number  of  young  men  and  women  from  Spituk, 
Sabu  and  Thiksay  are  employed  as  labourers  in  various  civil,  military 
and  para-military  organizations.  Every  labour  is  paid  at  the  rate  of 
Rs.  140/-  per  month  with  Sundays  and  other  holidays  off  and  every 
Saturday  as  half-day.  These  civilian  labourers  also  manage  to  procure 
some  old  dresses  and  the  left-overs  of  food.  In  case  the  site  of  work  is 
at  some  distat  place  the  military  transport  is  sent  to  fetch  the  labourers. 
In  the  evening  they  are  transported  back  to  their  respective  villages. 

Because  of  a  rapid  expansion  of  civil  and  defence  departments  in 
Ladakh  many  people  got  into  regular  service.  In  various  capacities,  the 
Bhotos  have  joined  various  organisations.  Except  a  few  officers,  most 
of  the  Bhotos  serve  in  lower-caders.  As  the  occupation  of  animal  hus¬ 
bandry  is  important  in  Kuyul,  so  is  the  wage-earning  in  Spituk,  Thiksay 
and  Sabu.  In  a  few  families  of  Spituk  the  income,  through  wage-earning, 
is  higher  than  what  they  get  from  agriculture.  Each  of  such  families  has 



four  members  employed  as  civilian  labourers.  This  makes  them  earn 
Rs.  600/-  per  month.  Such  an  attraction  of  money  has  diverted  the 
attention  of  some  people  from  agriculture  and  animal  husbandry.  The 
women  work  more  in  the  fields.  In  families  where  all  adult  men  and 
women  go  out  for  labour  or  other  jobs,  the  agriculture  fields  and  livestock 
are  left  to  others.  The  .latter  look  after  them  as  per  the  fixed  terms 
and  conditions.  In  Spituk,  if  a  man  looks  after  the  lovestock  the  owner 
gets  half  of  the  total  butter  produce. 

Among  the  other  occupations  of  the  Ladakhi s  are  spinning,  weaving, 
shoe-making,  brick-making,  mesonary,  and  carpentary.  Sewing  is  a  later 
introduction.  Grinding  of  grain  is  also  the  occupation  of  some  of  the 
Ladakhis.  These  people  own  water-operated  flour  mills.  With  the 
force  of  water  flow  the  grinding  stone  rotates  and  does  the  grinding. 
The  occupations  of  Gara,  Mon  and  Beda  are  specialized.  If  not  more, 
atleast  one  member  form  each  family  knows  spinning  and  weaving.  Spinn¬ 
ing  is  so  common  and  casual  that  one  can  find  a  Ladakhi  male  or  female 
spining  even  while  going  to  some  place  or  while  standing  or  roaming  about 
in  the  market.  During  the  course  of  conversation  too  many  of  them 
keep  on  spinning  with  a  small  spindle  arranged  for  the  purpose  near  the 
lower  part  of  abdomen.  This  is  how  they  prepare  woollen  threads  for 
weaving.  The  woollen  cloth  is  prepared  by  the  Ladakhis  themselves. 
There  is  no  taboo  for  weaving  on  the  basis  of  sex.  Small  woollen  carpets, 
popularly  known  as  Ladakhi  carpets,  are  locally  prepared  by  them.  Such 
carpets  are  nicely  spread  in  the  Chotkang.  The  demand  of  woollen  clothes 
is  locally  met.  Looking  to  the  rising  demand  for  Pashmina  shawl  the 
government  has  lately  set  up  weaving  centres  in  Leh,  Kargil  and  Nyoma. 
The  shawls,  carpets  and  other  articles  manufactured  in  these  centres  have 
ready  market.  The  cotton  cloth  is  always  bought  from  the  shops.  Like¬ 
wise,  the  Ladakhis  have  been  making  their  own  shoes.  Now,  the  company 
made  shoes  are  also  used  by  many.  These  are  bought  from  Leh.  Such 
shoes  are  generally  worn  while  visiting  Leh,  or  while  attending  some  other 
function  or  fair.  The  traditional  shoes  are,  however,  no  less  in  use. 
Not  all  Ladakhis  can  prepare  them.  But  there  are  some  experts.  The 
sole  of  the  shoe  is  made  out  of  woollen  threads  properly  knitted  and 
weaved.  Women  can  also  prepare  the  shoes.  The  height  of  this  shoe 
sometimes  reaches  upto  the  knee,  providing  protection  against  cold 
winds.  The  designs  made  on  the  shoe  are  attractive,  especially  when  they 
are  multicoloured  in  nature.  Members  of  both  sexes  wear  similar  kind 
of  shoes. 

Like  the  woollen  dresses  and  shoes,  the  Ladakhis  depend  on  their  own 
resource  for  house  construction.  Brick-making  is  a  small  scale  cottage 
industry  in  Ladakh.  Almost  all  the  adult  male  members  know  the  art 
of  brik-making.  The  bricks  are  prepared  with  the  help  of  a  wooden  frame 
and  are  sun-dried.  Big  in  size  the  bricks  are  rectangular  in  shape.  A 
fine  clay  paste  is  first  prepared  and  the  frame  is  then  filled  with  it.  Later 
on  the  wooden  frame  is  pulled  up  leaving  the  brick  behind.  In  order  that 

Economic  sthuctI/re 


the  wooden  frame  does  not  get  stuck  to  clay,  its  interior  surface  is  mois¬ 
tened.  The  bricks  are  then  left  to  dry.  The  Ladakhis  are  so  efficient 
at  brick-making  that  two  of  them  can  prepare  500  bricks  a  day. 

Ordinary  masonary  work  can  be  done  by  the  men  of  almost  every 
family.  But  for  better  construction  the  specialists  (Ladakhis  themselves) 
are  engaged.  Normally,  the  specialists,  when  engaged  by  others,  do  not 
charge  anything.  They  only  take  the  meals  there.  The  services  are 
rendered  on  the  basis  of  reciprocity.  Carpentary  is  a  specialized  job  and 
there  are  definite  people  to  do  it.  Ishae-Shang  of  Spituk,  a  Ladakhi,  is 
an  expert  carpenter  and  prepares  doors,  windows,  tables,  etc.  He  does  it 
with  lot  of  carving  and  engraving.  Ishae-Shang  works  as  carpenter  for 
all  and  charges  rupees  five  per  day.  Like  carpentary,  ironsmithy  is  also 
a  specialized  job  and  is  not  done  by  all.  Only  the  Garas  are  the  black¬ 
smiths.  Sewing,  as  in  occupation,  has  lately  caught  the  attention  of  the 
Ladakhis.  Sewing  machines  have  become  more  popular  in  Spituk. 
Fifteen  families  own  sewing  machines  and  do  the  sewing  for  themselves, 
as  also  for  others.  Both  men  and  women  operate  on  the  machine.  For 
others  the  sewing  is  done  on  payment  basis.  Two  of  the  fifteen  families 
have  good  income  from  sewing.  This  new  occupation  is  not  associated 
with  any  specific  ethnic  group.  Sewing  has,  however,  not  yet  been  taken 
as  a  full-time  job. 


The  trade  was  wide  spread  in  the  past.  The  Ladakhis  used  to  trade 
with  the  people  of  Skardu  and  Kashmir.  The  traders  from  Kashmir  and 
Punjab  brought  shawls,  grain,  copper-tinned  vessels,  including  liquid 
containers  and  plates,  spoons,  etc.  The  consignment  also  included  special 
kind  of  Gur  Gur  and  Chang  containers.  The  trade  of  such  items  is  still 
there.  Salt  from  land-locked  lakes  and  springs  in  Chang-Thang  was,  in 
small  quantities,  exported  to  these  places.  Ohter  items  of  export  included 
dried  fruits  and  borax.  The  chief  item  of  trade  was  fine  wool  obtained 
from  underfleece  of  sheep.  This  particular  wool  is  still  exported  out  of 
Ladakh  to  Srinagar  and  other  places.  It  is  not  traded  with  Skardu  and 
Yarkhand.  Shawl  wool,  felts,  tea  and  silks  came  to  Kashmir  from 
Yarkhand  via  Ladakh.  It  may  be  pointed  out  that  most  of  the  Ladakhis 
have  not,  themselves,  been  the  traders  but  involved,  in  the  trade  as  carriers. 
Only  a  handful  of  the  Kalhons  and  their  relations  were  the  traders,  especi¬ 
ally  of  fine  wool.  The  rest  were  engaged  by  outside  traders  for  various 
kinds  of  jobs  required  in  trading.  Largely  they  were  employed  as  coolies 
for  carrying  merchandise  and  for  maintenance  of  the  road.  As  the  trade 
route  to  Central  Asian  countries  was  through  Ladakh,  Leh  happened  to 
be  the  main  centre  of  exchange  of  various  commodities.  Leh  had  been 
the  meeting  place  for  caravaners  from  Yarkhand,  Kashgar,  Kashmir  etc. 
The  major  exchange  was  of  shawl  wool,  coarse  cotton,  borax,  salt,  gold 
ponies  etc.,  with  sugar,  spices,  saffron,  shawl,  cotton  clothes,  etc.  Through 



the  centrical  situation  of  Ladakh,  the  commercial  intercourse  was  between 
Tibet,  Turkestan,  Russia  and  China  on  the  one  hand  and  Kashmir  and  the 
plain  towns  of  India  on  the  other. 

Till  many  years  after  Indian  independence,  in  1947,  the  Ladakhis 
continued  their  trade  with  Tibet.  Trading  with  Tibetans  was  there  for 
centuries,  and  that  way  the  Ladakhis  have  been  having  intimate  relation¬ 
ship  with  Lhasa.  Tea  was  mostly  imported  from  Lhasa  where  it  used  to 
be  brought  from  China.  The  Ladakhis  continued  to  have  heavy  tea  con¬ 
sumption.  Some  of  the  better  quality  tea  was  imported  from  Yarkand. 
In  addition  to  tea,  plated  and  silver  vessels,  brocades  and  silk  were  also 
imported  from  China.  The  trade  agreement  of  1954  between  India  and 
China  came  to  an  end  in  June  1962.  This  led  to  the  ending  of  Indo- 
Tibetan  trade.  The  trade  with  Tibet  came  to  an  end  after  the  Chinese 
took  over  Tibet.  However,  the  dwindling  of  trade  had  already  started 
when  Sinkiang’s  borders  with  Ladakh  were  sealed  by  the  Chinese  in 
September  1949. 

With  Baltistan,  the  adjoining  province,  contascts  had  been 
maintained.  With  Baltis  the  Ladakhis,  as  mediators,  used  to  barter  wool 
with  the  superior  quality  of  dried  apricots.  Alongwith  the  fine  quality  of 
dried  apricots,  the  Baltis  also  received  wool  for  waterpots  and  cooking 
vessels  of  grit  stone  which  they  supplied  to  the  Ladakhis.  Now  the 
boundaries  with  Baltistan  are  sealed  and  the  Ladakhis  have  no 
commercial  relations  with  the  Baltis. 

Initially  the  Ladakhis  were  not  under  obligation  to  supply  labour  or 
protection  to  the  caravaners.  Help  was  rendered  voluntarily.  The  terms, 
conditions  and  modes  of  payment  were  not  defined  in  absolute  terms.  But 
after  British  Indian  government’s  treaty  with  Kashmir  (1870),  regulations 
were  made  to  channelise  the  trade  through  Ladakh.  It  was  made  obliga¬ 
tory  on  the  part  of  the  villagers  enroute  to  supply  labour  and  ponies  at 
comparatively  cheaper  rates.  This  kind  of  enforcement  was-  termed  as 
Res  system.  In  the  post-Indian  independence  period  the  Res  system 
was  abolished  when  it  was  observed  that  the  system  came  hard  on  the 

Now  that  the  foreign  trade  through  Ladakh  has  been  stopped,  the 
Ladakhis  involvement  in  Res  and  trade  has  also  been  abandoned.  The 
internal  transportation  of  goods  in  Ladakh  is  now  manifold.  The  goods 
and  merchandise  imported  in  easily  approachable  parts  of  Ladakh  are 
then  to  be  sent  to  remote  localities  of  the  district.  The  Ladakhis  are 
engaged  to  transport  the  goods  from  one  place  to  another.  They  do  it 
with  the  help  of  their  pack  animals  and  are  paid  suitably.  As  such  the 
stoppage  of  trade  with  Yarkhand,  Skardu,  Kashgar,  etc.,  has  note  conomb 
cally  affected  the  Ladakhis.  Rather,  their  earning  as  transporters  are  now 
more  than  what  they  had  in  the  past.  The  Ladakhis  carry  rations  for  the 
troops  deployed  in  the  interior  and  more  difficult  areas.  They  are  paid 
at  the  rates  mutually  agreed,  upon  by  the  Ladakhis  and  the  organization 
concerned.  For  instance,  from  Leh  to  Karakoram,  a  man  transporting 



a  horse-load  would  get  Rs.  250/-.  This  amount  is  for  one  way,  and  if  he 
has  to  reach  it  both  ways  he  would  be  paid  Rs.  350/-.  Likewise  the 
rates  are  also  fixed  for  other  areas. 

It  may  simultaneously  be  mentioned  that  the  sealing  of  eastern, 
western  and  the  northern  boundaries  of  Ladakh,  in  a  short  span,  did  give 
a  momentary  jolt  to  economic  life  of  the  Ladakhis.  But  then  the  situa¬ 
tion  could  be  managed  by  the  added  economic  opportunites  which  quickly 
came  up  in  Ladakh.  Expansion  of  internal  transportation,  employment 
opportunities  and  labour  jobs  provided  additional  sources  of  income. 
Things  took  shape  in  such  a  quick  succession  that  the  Ladakhis  could 
not  feel  the  pressure  of  economic  blocade.  The  same  could  have  happened 
in  the  absence  of  additional  sources  of  earning. 

Poverty  and  debt 

Ladakhis  are  partly  poor  and  partly  under  debt.  The  nature  of 
poverty  is  the  same  but  its  extent  differs.  It  was  observed  that  the  Lada¬ 
khis  of  Spituk,  Sabu  and  Thiksay  are  comparatively  better-off  than  those 
of  Kuyul.  The  material  possessions  and  the  standard  of  living  of  the  two 
differ.  Land  holdings  in  Kuyul  are  poor.  The  labour  and  other  employ¬ 
ment  opportunities  for  them  are  of  a  lesser  magnitude.  But  among  the 
inhabitants  of  Spituk,  Sabu  and  Thiksay  every  family  is  not  at  the  same 
economic  level.  More  of  them  live  from  hand  to  mouth.  A  few,  especi¬ 
ally  the  Kalhon  families  have  more  land  holdings.  Some  of  their  members 
are  in  employment  too.  Being  comparatively  more  progressive  they  also 
grow  cash  crops  like  vegetables  and  fruits.  Such  people  have  surplus 
and  are  having  good  standard  of  living  with  huge  double  and  even  triple¬ 
storeyed  houses.  They  have  sufficient  to  eat  and  give  loan  to  others.  But 
the  general  Ladakhis  are  under  debt.  It  may  be  stated  that  out  of  300 
families,  146  (48.67%)  have  taken  debt.  Among  those  who  have  taken 
debt,  the  nature  of  debt  is  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  nature  of  debt  taken  by  the  Ladakhis 

SI.  No. 

Nature  of  debt 

No.  of  families 



Who  took  money  only 




Who  took  money  plus  grain 




Who  took  grain  only 



The  table  reveals  that  the  requirement  of  Ladakhis  is  more  for  grain 
than  cash.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  out  of  146,  who  took  debt,  60  did 




so  from  Gompa  only.  In  case  of  those  who  took  grain,  the  quantities 
taken  are  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  quantities  of  grain  taken  as  debt  (Out  of  139  cases) 



Quantity  taken 

No.  of  families 
who  took  it 



Upto  10  Khal 




1 1  to  20  Khal 




More  than  20  Khal 



The  informants  have  stated  that  more  needy  are  those  who  have  large 
families  and  comparatively  less  land  holdings.  In  exceptional  situation, 
such  as  drought  condiions,  more  families  depend  on  Gompa  for  grain. 

Among  the  Bhotos  the  more  prominent  form  of  debt  is  in  kind  than 
cash.  The  required  quantity  of  butter,  grain,  flour,  tea  etc.,  are  borrowed 
by  the  needy.  This  nature  of  borrowing  is  different  from  what  is  found 
in  certain  caste  groups  in  plain  India.  Here  the  borrowing  and  lending 
are  not  conditioned  by  very  rigid  terms  and  conditions.  The  borrower 
may,  at  times,  return  the  same  amount  or  quantity.  On  other  occasions 
he  makes  addition  while  repaying.  The  conditions  are  not  felt  as  hard. 
The  interest,  especially  compound,  and  some  other  characters  of  debt 
relationship  are  missing  in  Ladakhi  society.  There  are  no  professional 
money-lenders.  The  system  is  maintained  keeping  in  view  the  back¬ 
ground  of  help.  The  villagers  uphold  the  spirit  of  help  and  cooperation. 
Under  the  religious  purview  too  they  feel  unhappy  if  they  find  anyone 
suffering  for  want  of  food  and  other  things.  Because  of  simple  living  of 
Ladakhis  the  requirements  are  not  many.  The  element  of  economic 
exploitation  is  not  forceful.  But  it  may  be  mentioned  that  in  case  of  the 
things  borrowed  from  monastery  the  villagers  have  to  repay  more.  This 
is  always  the  tradition. 

There  are  three  chief  sources  of  borrowing  money  or  material.  These 
include  Gompa,  shopkeepers  and  friends  and  relatives.  The  friends  and 
shopkeepers  can  also  be  the  non-Ladakhis.  For  borrowing  money  or 
material  the  village  Gompa  is  preferred.  In  case  there  is  no  Gompa  in 
the  village,  the  one  to  which  the  family,  from  sect  point  of  view,  belongs 
is  approached.  Kuyul,  for  instance,  has  no  Gompa  and  as  such  its 
inhabitants  have  to  go,  for  the  purpose  of  borrowing,  to  Hemis  or  Henle 
Gompa.  But  in  Spituk  is  a  Gompa  and  the  needy  ones  take  loan  from 
there  only.  For  Gompas  it  is  almost  obligatory  to  lend  money  and 
material.  Generally  the  Gompas  are  rich  institutions  and  maintain  huge 
stores  of  various  articles  required  in  day-to-day  life.  Every  Gompa  has 
regular  funds  for  the  purpose.  The  Gompa  maintains  surplus  through 



its  earning  from  Gompa  land,  livestock,  offerings  and  contributions  made 
by  the  people.  Gompa  store  and  treasury  are  open  to  one  and  all.  Even 
the  non-Bhotos,  residing  in  the  village,  can  enjoy  the  facility.  The  system 
is  not  complicated.  The  Chhag-jot  of  Gompa  looks  after  its  property. 
He  is  the  one  approached  by  the  needy.  Trust  and  confidence  are  the 
chief  factors  taken  into  consideration  while  lending  the  things.  No 
signature  or  thumb  impression  is  ever  obtained  from  the  borrower.  Only 
the  Chhag-jot  keeps  a  record  of  the  transaction.  The  Ladakhis  depend 
upon  Gompa  during  lean  months,  that  is,  for  a  few  months  prior  to  the 
harvesting  of  crops.  Help  is  also  sought  while  conducting  the  rituads  and 
caremonies  specially  connected  to  rites-de-passage.  At  the  time  of 
repayment  the  Ladakhis  return  more  than  what  they  received  from  Gompa. 
Some  informants  from  Sabu  reported  that  they  paid,  in  the  past,  twenty- 
five  percent  interest  on  the  loan.  Also,  if  100  Batti  grain  was  borrowed, 
125  Batti  was  returned.  Now  the  interest  is  said  to  have  been  reduced  to 
twelve  and  a  half  percent.  Such  conditions  further  help  in  enriching 
Gompa  resource.  The  loans,  in  cash  or  kind,  are  to  be  returned  after 
the  harvesting  of  crops.  The  person  concerned  is  not  even  reminded  for 
repayment.  As  the  things  were  obtained  from  a  religious  institution  these 
are  returned  without  asking  for  it.  The  return  with  addition  is  also  done 
in  the  name  of  Gompa.  As  the  man  does  it  willingly  within  the  set  tra¬ 
ditions  of  Gompa,  the  element  of  exploitation  is  not  conspicuously  obser¬ 
ved.  It  may  further  be  mentioned  that  in  some  cases  the  Gompa’ s 
treatment  comes  hard  and  harsh,  involving  an  element  of  exploitation. 
For  instance  if  the  loans  taken  from  Gompa  are  not  returned  for  a  long 
time,  the  Gompa  management  decides  to  ta,ke  possession  of  the  land 
holdings  of  the  borrower.  The  land  is,  thus,  acquired  in  the  name  of 
Gompa  and  is  cultivated  by  their  men.  If  the  loans  are  still  not  returned 
the  land  is  permanently  retained  by  the  Gompa.  As  an  instance,  Paldan 
Chhewang’s  father  Sonam  Lagzur,  owned  land.  He  borrowed  grain  and 
money  from  Spituk  Gompa.  As  he  could  not  return  it  for  a  few  years  his 
land  was  transferred  in  the  name  of  Gompa.  Chhewang  is,  thus,  now 

There  are  no  shopkeepers  in  Kuyul  and  Spituk.  In  Sabu  and  Thik- 
say  a  few  petty  shops  exist.  But  the  Ladakhis  borrow  from  the  shop¬ 
keepers  in  Leh  and  Nyoma.  Apart  from  eating  provisions  the  money 
can  also  be  borrowed  from  such  shopkeepers.  Generally,  the  Bhotos  take 
flour,  grain,  butter,  salt,  tea  etc.,  on  credit.  Such  dealings  are  governed 
by  definite  terms  and  conditions.  The  shopkeepers  either  accept,  in  return, 
more  of  Battis,  or  calculate  the  equivalent  money  value  and  accept  the 
cash.  Or,  they  may  also  accept  wool  of  equivalent  value,  including  the 
interest.  In  that  case  the  rate  of  wool  is  fixed  slightly  low  and  the  person 
keeps  quiet. 

The  Bhots  also  take  debt  from  friends,  colleagues  and  relatives.  This 
kind  of  system  is  said  to  be  more  beneficial  in  the  sense  that  no  interest 
is  charged  on  the  amount.  Whatever  borrowed  is  only  to  be  returned— 



a  feature  missing  in  case  of  Gompa  and  the  shopkeeper.  Another  lately 
introduced  practice  wherein  the  element  of  exploitation  does  not  appear 
is  to  borrow  from  Cooperative  Societies  existing  in  Leh  as  well  as  Nyoma. 
Kuyul  people  borrow  from  Nyoma  and  the  rest  from  Leh.  The  govern¬ 
ment  departments  also  provide  this  facility.  Things  are  available  on 
government  approved  rates.  Rice  and  butter  are  preferably  purchased 
from  Cooperative  Societies.  Baam  Duniya  Cooperative  Society,  Leh 
was  started  over  a  decade  back.  Initially  the  Ladakhis  raised  some  funds 
by  subscribing  rupees  six  each.  Then  they  collected  the  membership 
fee  of  Rs.  11/-  each.  The  government  also  gave  its  own  contribution 
as  subsidy.  An  Executive  Committee  of  seven  members  was  formed. 
Its  members  are  elected  every  year.  The  chief  function  of  the  Cooperative 
society  is  to  manage  for  various  commodities  at  reasonable  rates. 

Division  of  labour 

The  rules  of  division  of  labour  are  not  very  rigid  in  the  sense  that  a 
particular  person  would  only  do  a  particular  job.  A  grown  up  person  is 
multipurpose.  However,  some  reservations  have  still  been  made  on  the 
basis  of  age,  sex,  education,  physical  fitness,  opportunity,  religious  obliga¬ 
tion,  community  expectation  and  compulsions  of  societal  norms.  The 
aged  ones,  especially  those  who  are  not  physically  fit,  either  go  out 
for  cattle  grazing  or  relax  in  the  house  and  keep  on  rotating  the  prayer 
wheel.  Sitting  in  the  house  they  may  do  spinning  and  weaving,  as  laso 
look  after  the  younger  children.  Some  also  prepare  the  shoes  if  they  can. 
They  are  utilised  for  the  purpose  of  watching  the  crops.  When  the  elderly 
people  are  physically  fit  they  also  take  part  in  other  agriculture  activities 
including  ploughing,  sowing,  carrying  and  broadcasting  compost,  harves¬ 
ting  and  irrigation.  They  extend  help  in  carrying  loads,  preparing  bricks, 
constructing  house  and  fencing  walls,  digging  of  water  channels,  bringing 
drinking  water,  winnowing  and  threshing.  Except  in  ploughing,  the 
young  and  able-bodied  females  take  part  in  almost  ail  the  above  mentioned 
activities.  In  addition  she  attends  to  the  household  jobs  like  cooking, 
cleaning  of  utensils  and  floor,  serving,  preparing  Chang  and  Gur  Gur  and 
rearing  of  children.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  the  cooking  is  normally 
done  by  the  younger  daughter  or  daughter-in-law.  So  long  as  they  are 
in  the  house  the  old  mother  does  not  cook.  The  woman  does  spinning, 
weaving,  knitting  and  sewing.  A  young  and  physically  fit  woman  puts 
in  more  work  in  the  fields  than  what  a  man  does.  The  adolescents  either 
go  to  school  or  are  sent  for  cattle  grazing.  They  are  also,  at  times,  engaged 
to  look  after  their  younger  brothers  and  sisters,  if  any.  But  they  are 
frequently  seen  loitering  about  here  and  there,  or  playing  with  others  of 
their  own  age  group. 

Many  educated  men  and  women,  specially  of  young  age,  are  serving 
in  different  capacities.  From  my  sample  of  300  families  one  Ladakhi 
is  a  Medical  Officer  from  Spituk,  Another  from  Sabu  is  a  gazetted 



officer  in  Indian  Tibet  Border  Police.  There  are  many  others  employed 
as  peons,  sepoys,  teachers,  postmen,  clerks,  Other  Rank  and  Non-Commi¬ 
ssioned  Officers.  Those  posted  near  their  villages  return  home  in  the 
evening.  On  Sundays  and  other  holidays  they  are  found  working  in  their 
fields.  They  also  engage  in  brick-making,  wall  construction,  transporta¬ 
tion  of  compost  etc. 

The  agriculture  work  suffers  when  labour  demand  is  put  up  by  the 
monastery.  As  a  tradition  the  Ladakhis  are  under  an  obligation  to 
spare  and  supply  the  required  number  of  men  and  women  as  labourers. 
These  persons  would  work  for  Gompa,  attend  to  its  agriculture  and 
other  jobs  without  expecting  any  remuneration.  The  system  has  been 
methodically  organised.  The  requirement  of  manpower  is  sent  to  Goba 
who  fixes,  in  turn,  the  families  who  have  to  supply  labour  for  the  specified 
period.  Sowing  of  land  belonging  to  Gompa,  its  irrigation  and  harves¬ 
ting  are  attended  by  the  villagers.  And  the  total  produce  goes  to  Gompa. 
Even  if  there  are  no  spare  persons  in  a  fam.ily,  to  work  in  Gompa  fields 
they  have  to  manage  a  man  on  payment  basis  from  outside  the  family,  and 
ask  him  to  work  for  Gompa.  At  no  cost  a  family  can  afford  to  overlook 
the  demand  of  monastery.  When  one  or  more  persons  from  a  family  are 
deputed  to  work  for  monastery  the  division  of  labour  within  the  family 
gets  imbalanced.  People  admitted  that  they  respond  to  the  call  of  monas¬ 
tery  because  the  latter  provides  religious  services.  But  the  course  adopted 
is  not  voluntary.  The  Goba  has  to  submit  to  the  monastic  demand. 
Consequently  his  instructions  cannot  be  turned  down  by  anyone. 

In  spite  of  the  continuity  of  above  system,  the  Ladakhis  now  feel  less 
oppressed  in  terms  of  the  work  taken  from  them.  In  past  the  government 
functionaries,  at  various  levels,  were  always  assigning  some  work  to 
them.  It  was  to  be  done  under  force  and  pressure.  According  to  a  local 
Ladakhi  syaing  people  used  to  be  so  tightly  engaged  that  they  could  not 
find  time  even  to  wear  shoes.  People  remained  submissive  for  fear  of 
authorities  in  power.  The  villagers  were  physically  beaten  in  case  of 
disobedience.  Such  forced  labour  and  exploitation  are  no  more  existing. 
The  old  order  dwindled  after  India  became  free  of  colonial  yoke.  The 
Ladakhis  now  feel  more  relaxed.  For  whatever  work  they  are  now 
engaged  by  the  government  authorities  the  Ladakhis  are  always  paid 
at  reasonable  rates.  However,  their  ageold  commitment  to  sacred 
authorities  persists  as  before.  And  the  people,  by  and  large,  do  not 
grumble  about  it. 


Mechanism  of  Socio-Political  Control 

The  Ladakhis  are  basically  non-violent  and  submissive.  This  is  said 
to  be  the  outcome  of  Buddhism,  the  religion  they  follow.  Within  this 
background  the  major  crimes  are  unheard  of.  However,  instances  of 
deviations  from  and  breaking  of  norms  are,  at  times,  reported.  Apart 
from  religion  the  difficult  terrain  and  hard  climatic  conditions  are  said  to 
have  contributed  in  making  the  Ladakhis  docile  and  less  aggressive.  Not 
many  problems  in  the  context  of  socio-political  control  are,  therefore, 
highlighted  in  Ladakhi  society.  On  the  other  hand  there  are  a  large 
number  of  agencies  to  control  deviations  and  norm-breaking.  Their 
procedures  are  so  designed  that  normalcy  is  revived  without  much  of 
difficulty.  As  such  the  stage  of  social  disorganisation  does  not  come 

In  addition  to  the  agencies,  meant  to  retain  the  traditional  order  of 
socio-political  control,  there  operate  other  channels  in  support  of  status 
quo.  Socialization  is  one  such  process,  and  involvement  in  religious 
performances  is  another.  Both  are  strongly  pro-traditional  social  system. 
Most  of  the  norms  and  customary  laws  have  strong  influence  on  Ladakhi 
life.  While  growing  one  comes  to  know  of  desirable  and  undersirable 
events.  Telling  lies,  stealing,  being  violent,  abusing,  disobeying  the  parents 
and  the  religions  persons,  rejecting  the  parental  offers,  showing  disres¬ 
pect  to  Gompas,  keeping  Chotkang  unclean,  back-biting,  neglecting 
social  distance  with  the  members  of  other  ethnic  groups  are  considered 
unwanted  in  Ladakhi  life  and  culture.  Necessary  care  is  taken  to  avoid 
the  same  in  day-to-day  living.  Likewise  the  participation  in  religious 
performances,  which  are  so  common  in  Ladakhi  society,  makes  the  grow¬ 
ing  person  more  subservient  to  its  way  of  life.  As  religion  is  one  of  the 
strongest  deciding  factors  in  Ladakhi  life-designs,  people  get  conversed 
with  its  major  parameters  more  related  to  their  day-to-day  life. 

A  past  view 

The  pattern  of  socio-political  control,  now  observed,  is  marked  with 
some  change  when  compared  to  the  one  prevalent  in  the  past.  Some 
change  in  the  compositional  front  of  village  council  is  marked.  Some 
applies  to  its  modus  operandi.  For  instance  the  death  penalty  is  now 
unheard  of.  A  view  of  the  change  in  respect  of  composition,  decision- 

mechanism  of  socio-political  control 


making  and  punishment  can  be  understood  when  the  present  situation  is 
compared  to  what  existed  in  the  last  century  and  beyond.  Cunningham 
has  stated  that  “Administration  of  justice  in  Ladakh  was  truly  patriarchal. 
When  anyone  was  injured  or  agrieved,  he  proceeded  straight  to  Gyalpo, 
Kalhon,  Goba.  An  assembly  of  5  or  of  7  elders  of  the  community  was 
then  called  to  hear  and  to  decide  upon  the  case.  Elders  are  known  as 
Gatpas.  Punishment  included  stripes,  fines  and  imprisonment,  and  in 
extreme  cases  banishment  or  death.  In  cases  of  sacrilege,  such  as 
speliation  of  temples,  or  in  horrible  cases  of  murder,  the  criminals  were 
either  crucified,  or  thrown  into  the  Indus,  bound  hand  and  foot  weighted 
with  stones.  But  the  more  usual  punishment  for  murder  was  banishment, 
or  rather  ignominious  expulsion  from  society;  preceded  by  stripes  and 
branding.  The  brand  was  made  of  iron  and  was  about  one  inch  in  length. 
It  bore  a  dog’s  head,  with  inscription,  dog-marked  expelled.  Thus  after 
being  well  flogged  and  branded  the  unfortunate  criminal  was  drummed 
out  of  society,  followed  hooting  crowds,  who  pelted  him  with  stones  and 
dirt.  For  the  murder  of  a  child,  a  woman  was  sentenced  to  the  loss  of  one 
hand,  and  to  the  expulsion  with  the  same  indignities  as  above.  The  two 
modes  of  capital  punishment  were  drowning  and  crucifixion.  In  the 
latter,  the  criminal  was  conducted  to  the  Songsa,  or  place  of  execution, 
by  the  Shetma,  or  executioner.  The  crucifix  was  a  St.  Andrew’s  cross 
fixed  to  an  upright  stake.  The  culprit  was  stripped,  his  hands  and  feet 
were  bound  to  the  extremities  of  the  cross,  while  his  head  was  secured  to 
the  upright  stake  by  his  own  hair.  He  was  either  quickly  tortured  to 
death  by  boiling  oil,  or  was  slowly  allowed  to  expire  under  all  the  agonies 
of  thirst  and  physical  suffering.  It  is  worthy  of  notice  that  in  both  of 
these  modes  of  capital  punishment,  the  shedding  of  blood  was  studiously 
shunned;  for  the  sentence  of  crucifixion  was  carried  out  of  binding,  in¬ 
stead  of  nailing  the  criminal  to  the  cross.  There  must  have  been  some 
religious  repugnance  to  putting  a  culprit  to  death  by  any  mode  that 
involved  the  shedding  of  blood.  Mitilation  of  one  or  of  both  hands  was, 
however,  occasionally  employed.  For  theft  and  other  crimes,  the  punish¬ 
ment  was  three-fold.  :  that  is,  corporal  punishment,  or  stripes,  property 
punishment  or  fine,  which  was  nearly  always  taken  in  goods,  prison 
punishment,  or  imprisonment.  The  corporal  punishment  was  the  same 
for  man  and  woman.  The  culprit  was  placed  full  length  on  the  ground, 
and  received  the  awarded  number  of  stripes  on  the  bare  posteriors.  This 
punishment,  however,  could  always  be  avoided  by  the  payment  of  a 
commensurate  fine.  In  case  of  imprisonment  the  culprits  were  confined 
in  the  jail.  Theoretically,  food  was  allowed  during  the  term  of  imprison¬ 
ment;  but  practically,  both  in  the  provinces  and  in  the  capital  the  prisoner’s 
friends  were  obliged  to  supply  food  to  save  them  from  starvation” 
(Cunningham  1834;  Reprint  1970:262-266). 

In  case  of  theft,  the  stolen  property,  if  recovered,  was  restored  to  its 
owner.  And  a  fine,  equal  in  value  to  the  amount  of  the  stolen  goods, 
was  levied  on  the  thief  for  the  benefit  of  the  state.  If  the  property  was 



not  recovered,  a  double  fine  was  levied,  one  half  being  given  to  the  robbed 
party,  and  the  other  half  to  the  government.  This  was  the  punishment 
for  first  offence.  For  a  second  offence  the  sentence  was  loss  of  the  left 
hand;  for  a  third  offence,  loss  of  right  hand,  and  for  a  fourth  offence,  death 
by  drowning.  The  last  was  rare.  These  punishments  were  in  all  cases 
of  robbery  of  public  property  or  of  monastic  goods.  But  in  private 
robbery  the  usual  influences  had  then  weight.  Near  relationship  might 
sway  the  judges  to  a  milder  sentence;  or  a  fair  brive,  judiciously  bestowed 
might  induce  the  chief  Lama  of  the  monastery  of  Hemis  to  interfere  by  an 
appea.1  to  the  King’s  mercy,  which  it  was  unusual  to  refuse.  In  adultery 
where  the  woman  was  the  guilty  party,  the  paramour  was  fined  according 
to  his  means,  or  received  an  equivalent  corporal  punishment,  while  the 
husband  had  the  option  of  taking  back  the  woman  if  he  chose  to  do  so. 
If  he  did  not  wish  to  keep  her,  he  could  retain  her  dowry.  When  the 
husband  was  the  guilty  party,  the  wife  could  demand  back  her  dowry. 

In  doubtful  cases,  a  decision  was  obtained  either  by  casting  lots,  or 
by  ordeal.  In  the  latter  case,  the  accused  had  either  to  draw  a  red-hot 
iron  through  his  hand,  or  take  a  stone  out  of  a  pot  of  boiling  oil  without 
injury.  Alexander  Cunninghman  further  stressed  that  the  laws  of  Ladakh 
continued  in  force  even  under  the  rule  of  Maharaja  Gulab  Singh.  It  may 
be  stated  that  some  of  the  practices,  mentioned  by  Cunningham,  had 
disappeared  in  the  beginning  of  current  century  itself.  In  the  Census 
Report  of  Jammu  and  Kashmir  Sta.te  (1911:211)  it  has  been  stated  that 
“In  Ladakh  the  Lamas  continue  to  weild  authority  in  all  religious  and 
social  matters,  although  the  old  punishments  of  ostracism,  throwing  an 
iron  chain  round  the  neck,  whipping  and  the  like,  once  inflicted  by  the 
local  Rajas,  have  with  the  decline  of  their  political  power  ceased  to  exist; 
nor  has  excommunication  much  force  a.mong  the  casteless  Bodhs,  but 
the  fear  of  Kushok’s  curse,  a  boycott  by  the  Lamas  and  non-admission 
into  Gompas  have  great  deterrant  effect  a.nd.  make  the  decision  passed  by 
the  priestly  class  on  religious  and  social  matters  inviolable”. 

The  informants  now  admit  that  the  crimes  are  towards  increase.  But 
those  of  the  serious  nature  are  not  many.  There  has  lately  been  generated 
a  trend  to  report  the  incidents  beyond  village  council.  Some  Ladakhis 
make  appeal  in  the  Court  of  Sub- Judge.  The  latter  have  replaced  Gyalpo 
and  Kalhon.  During  the  course  of  my  discussion  with  Sub  Judge  of 
Leh,  I  was  informed  that  his  court  received  75  cases  in  the  year  1969. 
None  of  these  was  forwarded  by  the  Goba.  Even  the  Sub-Judgeadmitted 
that  the  crimes  are  towards  increase  among  the  Ladakhis,  though  their 
number  is  not  as  high  as  it  could  be  in  other  parts  of  the  country.  He 
further  stated  that  there  was  a  time  when  Ladakhis  did  not  lock-up  their 
houses.  They  never  had  doubt  on  the  integrity,  honesty  and  intentions 
of  a  person.  But  now  the  situation  is  changing.  The  cases  brought  to 
the  court  of  Sub- Judge  were  of  breach  of  peace,  land,  sex  and  beating. 
Instances  were  reported  when  Ladakhis  went  even  upto  High  Court.  In 
all  the  cases  brought  to  the  Court  of  Sub-Judge,  the  parties  involved  were 



from  the  Ladakhis.  However,  one  fellow  had  filed  a  case  against  Gompa 
organisation  stating  that  his  land  had  been  grabbed  by  monastic  hierarchy. 

Goba  and  his  assistants 

In  every  Ladakhi  village  the  socio-politi-control  is  enforced  through 
Goba,  the  village  headman,  and  his  two  or  more  assistants  known  as 
Members.  Normally  there  is  one  in  a  village.  But  the  number  of 
Members  depends  upon  the  size  of  population  constituting  the  village. 
Every  village  is  divided  into  sections  whose  number  varies  according  to 
population  strength.  Each  section  of  the  village  is  having  a  Member  as 
its  representative  and  spokesman.  For  various  matters  the  Members 
are  held  responsible  for  their  respective  section.  Goba,  that  way,  is 
responsible  for  the  entire  village  including  all  the  sections.  The  structure 
of  administration  and  control  is  represented  through  two-tier  system. 
One  consists  of  Goba  and  the  other  of  the  Members.  This  structure  is 
uniform  in  all  the  four  villages.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  the  institution 
of  Goba  has  all  through  been  existing  in  Ladakhi  village  community.  The 
assistants  or  sectional  heads  have  also  been  there,  though  the  term  Member 
(Ghansum)  has  only  lately  been  introduced.  This  specially  came  into 
force  after  the  influence  of  National  Congress  Party  on  the  Ladakhis. 
Previously,  they  were  not  very  formally  recognised.  The  basic  pattern 
of  the  village  administration  is,  thus  the  same  as  it  used  to  be  in  the  past. 
The  change  of  nomenclature  is,  however,  reported.  The  Members, 
selected  after  1947  got  normally  registered  with  National  Congress  Office 
in  Leh.  Through  them  the  village  council  is  connected  to  wider  political 
party.  The  term  of  office  of  a  Goba  or  Member  is  not  defined.  Only 
the  men  are  ascribed  these  positions  and  the  person  can  be  changed  as 
and.  when  necessary.  The  village  community  is  empowered  to  take  deci¬ 
sions  in  such  matters.  There  is  yet  another  functionary  who  obeys  the 
orders  of  Goba  and  the  Member.  He  has  no  hand  in  resolving  disputes 
but  simply  acts  as  a  messenger  of  the  council  consisting  of  Goba  and 
Members.  The  man  can  be  sent  for  any  business  concerning  the  village 
council.  He  is  a  great  help  to  Goba.  He  conveys  the  messages  ard 
carries  the  news  back.  The  man  is  also  taken  help  of  while  raising  con¬ 
tributions  of  various  kind.  This  man,  known  as  Kotwal,  is  nominated 
by  Goba  and  his  assistants.  A  Kotwal  does  not  form  part  of  the  village 
council,  though  he  meets  certain  requirements  of  the  council.  Sometimes 
there  is  more  than  one  Kotwal  in  a  village.  The  sectional  or  Mohalla 
Kotwal  is  selected  by  Mohalla  people.  Subsequently  they  get  it  approved 
from  Goba.  The  selection  is  done,  by  rotation  every  year. 

All  the  Ladakhi  villages  have  their  village  councils.  Kuyul  council 
is  headed  by  Tashi  Pulzor,  an  illiterate  man.  As  the  size  of  this  village 
is  comparatively  small,  Tashi  Pulzor  is  assisted  only  by  two  Members. 
These  three  are  responsible  for  social  control  at  village  level.  As  sanc¬ 
tioned  procedure  Goba  has  been  given  more  privileges.  These  he  enjoys 



tfefE  LADAiCHi 

independently  as  well  as  jointly  with  the  Members.  A  Goba  is  empowered 
to  impose  fine.  He  can  ask  a  person  to  leave  the  village  and  can  resort 
to  physical  beating.  When  someone  does  not  obey  him  the  person  can 
be  dragged  to  police  custody.  The  Goba  is  selected  by  the  members  of 
village  community.  There  is  no  election  for  the  position,  and  the  selec¬ 
tion  is  made  with  common  consent.  After  his  selection  the  prominent 
male  members  of  the  village  escort  him  to  Tashildar  (Revenue 
Assistant).  They  certify  his  identity  as  Goba  and  the  same  is  entered 
into  official  records  by  the  Revenue  Assistant.  After  returning  back 
to  the  village,  the  elderly  ones  consume  Chhang  to  celebrate  the 
occasion.  That  the  Goba  is  to  be  always  registered  with  a  Tahsildar, 
and  not  with  any  other  official,  is  becuase  of  the  fact  that  the 
former  does  maintain  his  association  with  land  revenue — an  arena  with 
which  the  Tahsildar  is  also  connected.  On  behalf  of  the  government  a 
Goba  is  deputed  to  collect  land  revenue  form  the  villagers  under  his 
jurisdiction.  He  gets  five  percent  of  the  total  land  revenue  collected  as 
his  remuneration.  The  recovery  of  revenue  is  done  in  collaboration 
with  Patwari  (village  accountant).  In  general  a  Goba  is  taken  as  the 
torch  bearer  for  all  important  matters.  The  villagers  express  that  they 
cannot  do  without  a  Goba.  A  Goba  shares  the  joys  and  sorrows  of  the 
village  community.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  the  Members  after  they  are 
selected  by  the  villagers  are  not  produced  before  Tahsildar  or  any  other 
official.  Women  have  no  say  in  selecting  the  village  leaders.  Nor  a 
female  is  ever  selected  for  the  positions  of  Goba  and  Member.  The  right 
to  achieve  these  positions  is  denied  to  the  women  in  spite  of  the  fact  that 
they  have  considerable  freedom.  For  these  positions  the  women  are 
considered  incapable  and  ineffective.  It  is  further  felt  that  the  females, 
being  preoccupied  with  household  and  other  duties,  are  not  in  a  position 
to  spare  time  for  the  purpose.  At  the  same  time  the  men  do  not  want 
that  the  women  should  give  verdict  and  decisions.  That  a  woman  is 
debarred  on  the  ground  of  impurity  is  not  true.  Prior  to  his  selection  as 
Goba  or  Member,  man’s  qualities  are  taken  note  of.  Simplicity,  honesty, 
truthfulness,  social  status,  reputation  and  nature  of  dealings  with  others 
are  considered.  The  man  is  required,  to  be  on  the  positive  side  of  such 
factors  before  he  is  considered  for  the  position.  A  sound  economic 
background  is  not  an  important  factor  for  consideration.  One  may  or 
may  not  be  rich.  For  instance  the  Goba  of  Kuyul  is  a  rich  man  having 
more  land  and  livestock  than  other  inhabitants  of  the  village.  But  the 
Goba  of  Spituk  is  not  a  rich  man. *  There  are  many  others  richer  than 
him.  The  social  placement  of  a  man  is  stressed  upon.  This  is  one  reason 
why  Beda,  Mon  and  Gara  can  never  become  Goba  or  Member.  They 
are  treated  socially  inferior.  Socially  superior  Ladakhis  say  the  Kalhons, 
are  preferred  for  the  purpose.  At  times  the  role  of  monastery  is  no  less 
important.  This  is  more  true  for  villages  having  Gompas.  When  the 
villagers  have  some  difference  of  opinion  about  a  selection,  they  approach 
the  Kushok  and  request  him  to  name  the  persons  for  the  positions  of  Goba 



and  Member.  It  may  even  be  done  without  having  difference  of  opinion. 
A  man  nominated  by  Kushok  is  not  challenged  by  any  villager.  Even  if 
such  nomination  is  unpleasant  to  someone  he  does  not  publicity  dare  to 
express  it.  A  Kushok’ s  say  is  final  and  not  to  be  underestimated.  The 
present  Goba  of  Spituk  was  nominated  by  Kushok  Bakula.  That  a  man 
should  be  more  educated  to  get  the  positions  of  Goba  and  Member  is  again 
not  true.  There  are  may  more  educated  people  in  Spituk,  Kuyul  and 
Sabu  who  have  not  been  given  the  positions.  Likewise  a  man’s  position 
in  service  and  his  better  contact  with  outsiders  do  not  form  the  preferred 
qualification  for  becoming  a  Goba  or  Member.  The  Gobas  of  all  the 
four  villages  arc  agriculturists  and  are  not  formally  educated.  It  is 
not  true  that  the  positions  of  village  council  would  only  be  given  to  very 
aged  people.  There  are  far  more  aged  and  experienced  people  in  Kuyul 
and  Spituk  than  the  current  Gobas.  Both  of  the  latter  are  comparatively 
of  young  age.  The  Goba  of  Spituk  is  about  forty  years  old.  He  is 
uneducated  and  heads  the  civilian  labour  force.  Total  land  possessed  by 
him  is  sixty  Kanal.  He  has  been  to  Bodh  Gaya, and  has  the  experience  of 
air  travel.  His  outlook  is  broad  and  pro-change.  He  makes  use  of 
certain  improved  agriculture  practices.  This  Goba  is  receptive  and  help¬ 
ful  to  outsiders.  The  villagers  have  full  confidence  in  his  leadership 
irrespective  of  his  being  an  illiterate  man. 

Since  the  tenure  for  the  positions  of  village  council  is  not  fixed  the 
Goba  may  continue  for  atleast  five  years  provided  people  are  satisfied 
with  him.  But  when  a  Goba  is  found  behaving  partial  in  decision¬ 
making  or  if  he  shows  signs  of  dishonesty,  negligence  and  unresponsive¬ 
ness  the  villagers  dislodge  him.  With  his  removal  the  village  council  is 
not  dissolved.  The  villagers  inform  the  Tahsildar  who  cancels  his  regis¬ 
tration  from  the  records.  The  removal  is  not  a  ceremonial  affair.  Once 
a  Goba  is  removed  he  has  no  scope  for  any  appeal.  The  removal  of  a 
Member  is  still  simple  as  the  villagers  need  not  even  inform  the  Tahsildar. 

There  exists  a  positional  hierarchy  in  village  council.  The  Goba’s 
position  is  superior  to  a  Member.  His  rights  and  privileges  are  more. 
The  fact  is  known  to  all  the  inhabitants.  In  minor  cases  a  Goba  alone  can 
give  the  verdict.  The  superiority  of  Goba’s  position  is  recognised  by  the 
government  too.  One  of  the  Members  can  officiate  as  Goba  if  the  real 
one  is  absent  and  if  the  urgency  is  realised.  In  major  events  concerning 
village  community  or  the  people  of  a  section  the  representation  is  stressed 
upon.  Any  major  cause  of  concern  demands  more  democratic  frame¬ 

Next  to  Goba  in  position  is  the  Member.  Some  concessions  have 
been  given  to  the  latter.  These  specially  relate  to  the  people  in  his  section. 
Being  the  headman  and  spokesman  of  a  section  he  can  exert  in  certain 
issues.  But  his  version  cannot  be  accepted  as  binding.  People  can 
approach  him  for  advice.  The  major  issues  involving  wider  interests  are 
decided  jointly  by  the  Goba  and  the  Members.  The  people  of  a  section 
are  supposed  to  have  regard  for  the  Member  and  his  leadership.  A 



Member  conveys  Goba’s  instructions  to  the  people  of  his  section.  And 
the  desired  response  is  expected  to  the  same.  It  is  the  duty  of  the  Member 
to  ensure,  on  behalf  of  the  people  of  his  section  all  help  and  cooperation 
to  Goba. 

In  spite  of  positional  stratification  in  village  council  the  Member  with 
his  subordinate  position  is  never  under-estimated  by  the  Ladakhis.  So 
long  as  the  latter  is  holding  the  position  he  is  not  to  be  challenged.  The 
council  positions  and  the  incumbants  against  them  are  usually  rated  only 
next  to  the  Lamas.  Such  positional  arrangement  is  practically  displayed 
in  larger  gatherings.  For  example,  in  a  worship  where  Lamas  read  the 
sacred  literature  and  the  villagers  participate,  the  sitting  arrangement  is 
made  according  to  the  defined  positions  of  the  persons.  The  religious 
men  occupy  the  highest  seats  with  bigger  Ladakhi  tables  in  front  of  them 
followed  in  order  by  Goba,  the  Members  and  other  elderly  men  of  the 
village  community.  In  a  ceremony  where  the  Lamas  are  not  present 
the  Goba  occupies  the  first  seat.  The  Members  and  other  elderly  parti¬ 
cipants  come  next  to  him.  In  a  sectional  gathering  where  Goba  and 
Lama  are  not  present  the  concerned  Member  occupies  the  topmost  place 
followed  by  other  senior  men  of  the  section. 

In  regard  to  the  roles  and  activities  of  the  council  there  is  not  much 
of  complexity  and  rigidity.  The  norms  and  sanctions  in  the  know¬ 
ledge  of  people  though  they  are  not  written  in  the  form  of  code  of  conduct. 
Even  when  two  out  of  the  three  members  are  removed  by  the  villagers  the 
council  is  not  dissolved.  One  man  council  may  function  till  the  substi¬ 
tutes  are  selected.  The  quoram  is  thus  not  stressed  upon  except  in  the 
event  of  some  important  occasion.  The  conflicts  and  proposals  are  not 
reported  to  the  village  council  in  writing.  There  is  no  need  of  submit¬ 
ting  any  application  nor  paying  any  fees  to  the  council.  No  nomination 
papers  are  filled.  Neither  any  records  are  maintained  nor  signatures 
required.  Verbal  proceedings  and  evidences  are  acceptable.  There  is 
no  special  place  to  hold  council  meeting.  For  major  issues  involving  wider 
community  interests  and  implication,  the  council  meetings  are  convened 
in  Gompa  campus — it  may  be  an  out-house  of  the  monastery.  Since  this 
place  holds  religious  sanctity  the  participants  cultivate  a  fair  deal.  Because 
of  the  religious  fear  the  facts  are  represented  and  the  decisions  made 
accordingly.  For  minor  matters  the  meeting  may  be  convened  at  the 
residence  of  Goba.  The  message  regarding  the  date  and  time  of  the 
meeting  of  council  are  again  orally  communicated.  Kotwa.1  who  is  sent 
for  the  purpose  meets  the  concerned  persons  and  conveys  the  message  on 
behalf  of  Goba.  No  written  instructions  are  issued  to  Kotwal.  In 
addition  to  sending  instructions  the  Goba  may  from  time  to  time  direct 
Kotwal  for  any  job.  For  instance  when  some  senior  official  or  a  d.ignitory 
proposes  to  visit  the  village  the  Kotwal  is  deputed  to  make  arrangement 
for  his  boarding,  lodging  and  other  comforts.  If  need  be  the  villagers  are 
informed  to  gather  at  one  place  to  meet  the  visitor.  The  petty  officials 
accommodate  themselves  in  Goba’s  house.  Fie  offers  at  least  one  meal 



to  them.  For  subsequent  meals  the  Goba  through  Kotwal  askes  other 
Members  to  manage.  In  case  of  longer  stay  the  prominent  persons  of  the 
village  are  also  asked  to  arrange  for  the  meals.  The  family  who  is  to 
supply  the  meals  is  intimated  by  the  Kotwal  well  in  advance.  If  the  visitor 
happens  to  bring  his  horse  along,  the  fodder  for  the  animal  is  also  arran¬ 
ged.  Kotwal  is  attached  with  the  visitor  during  the  course  of  his  stay  in 
the  village.  The  position  of  a  Kotwal  is  nominated  one.  He  is  nominated 
by  Goba  in  consultation  with  the  Members.  There  is  no  fixed  tenure  for 
a  Kotwal.  Every  family  by  rotation  has  to  spare  one  man  for  the  job. 
A  Kotwal  gets  no  remuneration  and  at  the  same  time  is  requistioned  any 
time  by  the  Goba  and  Member  for  his  services.  No  special  status  is 
attached  with  the  position  of  a  Kotwal.  Blit  the  Ladakhis  do  recognise 
him  as  a  bonafide  messenger  of  village  council  and  respond  accordingly. 

In  spite  of  the  unwritten  code  of  conduct  and  oral  procedures  and 
proceedings  the  role  of  village  council  is  very  important.  For  their 
superior  positions  the  Goba  and  the  Members  have  lot  to  say  in  the  arena 
of  Ladakhi  life  and  culture.  It  can  be  seen  at  some  place  or  the  other  in 
the  social,  economic,  political,  religious  and  cultural  life  of  the  village 
community.  Justice  is  imparted,  social  control  is  regulated  and  functions, 
ceremonies  and  rites,  connected  to  certain  life-ways  are  supervised.  There 
is  frequent  inter-play  of  Goba,  Members  and  other  elderly  men  of  the 
community.  And  most  of  the  resolutions  are  an  outcome  of  such  an 
interaction.  Opinion  and  advice  of  the  elderly  lot  are  given  due  attention. 
And  if  conflicts  are  still  not  resolved  the  guidance  may  be  sought  from  the 
religious  men  of  Gompa.  More  often  approached  for  the  purpose  is 
Chhag-jot  of  the  monastic  organisation.  But  when  something  is  not 
decided  even  at  his  level,  Kushok  is  the  last  man  to  be  contacted.  His 
decision  is  final  and  his  word  is  almost  law  to  the  Ladakhis. 

The  procedure  of  holding  council  meeting  is  not  complicated.  The 
matter  is  first  looked  into  by  the  Goba.  He  then  sends  for  Kotwal.  The 
Members  are  intimated  and  are  asked,  to  come  to  a  particular  place  decided 
by  the  Goba.  In  case  the  dispute  is  between  two  parties,  their  members 
are  asked  to  appear.  And  if  the  dispute  is  of  common  concern  the  othei 
elderly  men  of  the  village  are  also  invited.  As  a  matter  of  procedure 
Goba  introduces  the  subject  and  initiates  discussions.  Others  listen  to 
him  and  react  only  when  he  is  through.  I  observed  the  proceedings  of 
a  council  meeting  in  Spituk,  held  in  late  evening  in  Gompa  campus.  Any 
participant  would  speak  any  time  during  the  course  of  session,  even  if  it 
interferes  in  what  the  other  is  saying.  One  could  hear  many  voices  at  a 
time.  Things  calmed  down  to  some  extent  when  Goba  shouted  and 
intervened.  Pin-drop  silence  prevails  if  they  come  to  know  of  Kushok’ s 
arrival.  The  head  Lama  is  requested  to  intervene  only  in  rare  case. 

The  members  involved  in  a  dispute  are  given  sufficient  scope  for 
hearing.  In  case  the  women  are  involved  they  are  at  liberty  to  express 
themselves.  The  Goba  and  the  Membes  listen  to  the  arguments  and,  if 
need  be,  they  probe  further.  The  hearings  are  directed  by  Goba  and  are 



open.  Anyone  can  turn  up  and  observe  the  proceedings.  In  addition  to 
those  directly  involved,  some  witnesses  may  also  be  examined.  But  it 
depends  on  the  seriousness  of  the  problem  and  the  demand  of  the  occasion. 
The  spokesmen  of  the  involved  parties  may  also  be  given  chance  to  speak. 
They  at  times  speak  of  their  own.  Even  when  unwanted,  an  observer  can 
also  be  heard  interfering  in  the  proceedings.  At  last  the  Goba  and  the 
Members  give  their  verdict.  The  decision  mutually  agreed  upon  is  made 
public  by  the  Goba.  When  it  becomes  difficult  to  assess  the  situation  under 
arguments  and  counter  arguments  the  village  council  seeks  help  of  the 
religion.  The  members  involved  in  the  dispute  are  asked  to  take  oath  in 
the  name  of  Lord  Buddha  in  support  of  their  statements.  It  is  believed 
that  the  Ladakhis  being  religion-dominated  people  would  not  speak  lies 
in  the  name  of  Lord  Buddha.  In  case  the  wrong  statements  are  made  the 
supreme  god  would  get  annoyed  and  they  may  invite  some  harm.  In  this 
background  the  facts  come  to  the  surface.  One  at  fault  would  not  afford 
to  annoy  Lord  Buddha.  In  most  of  the  cases  the  offender  is  identified 
correctly.  What  a  man  says  in  the  name  of  Lord  Buddha  is  acceptable 
to  the  members  of  the  council.  But  if  the  confusion  continues  to  prevail 
even  after  the  performance  of  the  ritual  the  matter  is  sorted  out  by  Kushok. 
Or,  the  case  may  be  referred  to  Police  or  Tahsildar.  People  from  Kuyul 
mentioned  of  yet  another  device  to  solve  the  complicated  cases.  It  is  again 
religion-oriented.  The  members  of  the  village  council  request  the  head 
Lama  to  keep  sacred  books  on  the  heads  of  the  persons  who  are  to  make 
statement  in  connection  with  their  case.  A  common  belief  is  that  no  one 
would  speak  lies  after  keeping  sacred  literature  on  the  head.  Since  major 
areas  of  Ladakhi  life  and  culture  are  directly  or  indirectly  connected  to 
religion,  people  do  not  dare  to  ignore  religious  sanctity.  The  religion 
is  equally  helpful  in  the  detection  of  crime.  Under  the  circumstances  the 
statements  of  the  parties  are  accepted  and  the  decisions  made  accordingly. 
Most  of  the  cases  are  locally  settled.  Only  the  case  of  murder,  which  is 
a  rare  occurrence  among  Ladakhis  is  reported  to  the  Police.  In  a  land  case 
the  Patwari  is  requested  to  intervene  when  Goba  and.  Member  fail  to 
resolve  the  same. 

In  addition  to  the  use  of  Pothis  (the  sacred  books)  there  are  some 
other  means  of  detecting  crime  and  the  offender.  When  complications 
arise  the  persons  involved  are  taken  to  Gompa  and  made  to  argue  their 
case.  It  is  believed  that  the  Ladakhis  would  not  tell  lies  in  Gompa  campus. 
Being  extremely  god-fearing  they  cannot  afford  to  make  wrong  statements. 
If  they  do  so  their  gods  and  goddesses  would  get  annoyed  and  cause  harm 
to  them.  Since  the  guilty  one  would  be  reluctant  to  disrespect  the  super¬ 
naturals,  his  identification  becomes  easier.  There  is  another  device 
explained  by  the  informants  from  Sabu.  It  is  again  rooted  in  religion 
and  the  fear  thereof.  Tn  case  of  Gompa  the  element  of  religion  involved 
is  more  of  respect  to  the  sacred  institution  of  monastery.  In  the  second 
device  the  fear  of  supernaturals  conditions  the  persons  involved.  Those 
involved  in  a  dispute  are  asked  to  eat  a  little  of  sand  collected  from  the 



cremation  ground..  Those  who  can  do  so  are  believed  to  speak  the  truth. 
And  the  guilty  would  not  do  it.  And  if  he  does  so  he  is  bound  to  be 
harmed  by  the  spirits  of  the  dead.  A  man  cannot  afford  to  be  harmed 
by  the  spirits  by  concealing  the  facts,  and  hence  the  truth  is  revealed. 
The  Ladakhis  are  of  the  opinion  that  annoying  the  spirits  would  cause  far 
more  serious  consequences  than  to  accept  a  guilt.  This  device  is  said  to 
be  more  effective  in  ascertaining  the  crime  and  the  guilty  and  is  used  only 
when  all  other  alternatives  fail. 

The  judgement  also  defines  the  nature  of  punishment  if  it  is  provided 
for.  There  is  also  a  provision  for  announcing  rewards.  In  cases  of  minor 
loss  or  harm  the  punishment  is  mild.  The  council  members  ask  the 
offender  to  manage  for  a  Khatak  and  offer  the  same  to  one  not  found 
guilty.  While  offering  Khatak  the  one  at  fault  utters  Zu-Zu  (  a  gesture 
of  respect).  The  act  is  equivalent  to  the  seeking  of  pardon.  At  times 
the  man,  not  found  at  fault,  is  also  offered  Chang.  This  happens  imme¬ 
diately  after  the  offering  of  Khatak.  This  ritual  helps  remove  ill-feeling. 
If  the  case  resolved  is  bit  serious  a  fine  of  Rs.  5/-  may  also  be  imposed. 
Imposition  of  fine  in  cash  is  common  in  Spituk.  As  part  of  further  punish¬ 
ment  a  man  may  be  asked  to  arrange  for  a  goat.  The  man  who  was 
penalised,  the  one  who  was  declared  innocent,  the  Goba  and  the  Members 
share  the  fine  money  or  the  goat,  whatever  the  case  may  be.  For  the 
money  they  buy  Chang  and  drink.  This  brings  the  meeting  to  an  end.  Some 
informants  from  Spituk  report  that  the  penalty  amount  is  deposited  with 
the  Chhag-jot  of  Gompa.  In  case  of  elopement  the  man  is  to  pay  a  fine 
of  Rs.  5/-  plus  a  goat.  It  would,  be  in  the  case  where  force  is  involved. 
But  when  it  is  done  with  mutual  consent,  no  fines  are  imposed..  Those 
involved,  are  asked  to  marry.  The  theft  cases  are  resolved  by  the  imposi¬ 
tion  of  fine.  Case  of  theft  is  rare  as  the  Ladakhi  Buddhists  consider  it 
a  big  evil.  In  a  rape  case  the  man  is  fined  rupees  six  to  seven.  He  is 
further  made  to  seek  pardon  by  saying  Zu-Zu  to  the  female.  The  ordeal 
is  accompanied  by  the  offering  of  a  Khatak.  The  fine  money  goes  to  the 
female.  In  a  case  of  injury  or  physical  beating  the  fine  is  imposed,  as 
penalty.  When  a  person  fails  to  pay  the  fine  his  nature  of  punishment 
is  changed.  The  council  proposes  for  revenge  against  the  guilty.  The 
Kotwal  is  directed  to  tie  the  hand  and  feet  of  the  person  and  to  beat  him. 
He  continues  beating  till  the  Goba  and  the  Members  tell  him  to  stop. 

Another  method  of  punishing  an  offender  is  locally  termed  as  Melam 
Chhulam.  It  refers  to  stopping  of  exchange  of  fire  and  water  with  a  person. 
It  symbolises  the  curtailment  of  relationship  with  the  offender.  Melam 
Chhulam  is  a  sort  of  social  boycot  though  not  a  permanent  one.  The 
background  is  that  the  person  is  to  realise  his  folly.  Even  the  fear 
of  short-lived  punishment  is  said  to  be  sufficient  to  revive  normalcy  in 
behaviour.  The  Ladakhis  feel  that  a  permanent  social  boycot  would  be 
damaging  under  the  hard  conditions  of  living.  Melam  Chhulam  is  prac¬ 
tised  only  in  case  of  gross  violation  of  norms  of  conduct,  say,  when  one 
challenges  or  threats  a  Kushok  or  a  Lama  of  the  senior  order  or  indulges 


The  LAHAKrti 

in  party  politicts  against  the  interest  of  religious  men  and  if  poses  threat 
to  the  community  or  group  life. 

In  the  above  events  a  meeting  of  the  village  council  is  called  for.  The 
Goba  and  the  Members  invite  a  few  other  elderly  men  of  the  village.  The 
offender  is  directed,  to  appear  before  them.  He  is  given  sufficient  chance 
to  explain  his  position.  Only  when  the  assembly  gets  convinced  of  the 
guilt  the  Melam  Chhulam  is  proposed.  The  news  is'  circulated  among 
all  the  inhabitants.  The  implications  of  social  boycot  are  many.  The 
Lamas  stop  rendering  religious  service  to  the  person  and  his  family. 
People  stop  visiting  his  house.  He  is  isolated  to  organise  things  by  him¬ 
self.  Cooperation  and  help  in  day-to-day  life  are  withdrawn.  Food  is 
neither  offered,  to  him  nor  his  food  shared  by  others.  No  one  would 
propose  for  marital  relations  with  the  ostracised  person  and  any  other 
member  of  his  family.  Such  circumstances  make  existence  extremely 
difficult.  Burden  of  isolation  is  unbearable.  When  it  becomes  very  hard 
the  guilty  decides  to  seek  pardon  from  the  persons  in  religious  hierarchy  as 
well  as  those  in  the  village  council.  The  man,  concerned,  expresses  his 
willingness  to  accept  any  other  punishment  if  he  could  be  readmitted  tothe 
group.  Simultaneously,  he  expresses  his  apology  and  the  group  considers 
the  appea.l.  Realising  that  social  boycot  is  a  very  severe  punishment,  the 
Ladakhis  normally  avoid  committing  acts  which  lead  to  this  situation. 

The  village  council  of  Ladakhis  is  a  multipurpose  agency.  It  helps 
resolve  disputes  related  to  land,  sex,  water  channels,  intoxication  and 
physical  beating.  Revenue  collection  is  chiefly  the  job  of  Goba  and  the 
Members.  The  management  of  water  channels,  meant  for  irrigation,  is 
the  responsibility  of  the  village  council.  The  council  members  appoint 
the  villagers,  by  turn,  to  look  after  the  maintenance  of  such  channels.  In 
addition  the  council  has  its  hand  in  the  organisation  of  manpower  at  village 
level.  This  is  how  they  manage  to  spare  people  for  Gompa  service,  a s 
also  for  looking  after  channels  and  other  works.  The  Goba  and  the 
sectional  heads  keep  account  of  the  manpower  and  its  distribution.  Atten¬ 
ding  to  any  community  work,  say  construction  of  a  school  building  or 
Vihara,  is  the  chief  concern  of  village  council.  The  council  members  have 
the  right  to  direct  people  to  help  in  any  new  construction  in  . Gompa,  as 
also  for  the  repair  of  the  old  ones.  Their  responsibility  further  involves 
selection  of  site  and  raising  of  funds  for  the  purpose.  A  very  prominent 
role  of  village  council  lies  in  the  maintenance  of  status-quo  of  the  existing 
social  order.  They  also  take  care  of  readjustment  of  norms  under  chang¬ 
ing  conditions.  Additions  and  alterations,  if  any,  are  channelised  through 
the  council.  The  council  members  raise  funds  for  Gompa.  This  fund 
is  utilized  in  organising  religious  performances.  It  is  done  with  the  under¬ 
standing  that  such  religious  performances  are  meant  for  the  welfare  of  the 
village  community.  There  is  a  complete  understanding  that  monastic 
organisation  would  look  after  the  villagers,  and  the  villagers  would  take 
care  of  the  monastic  organisation.  On  many  occasions  the  fine  money 
is  deposited  with  Gompa  only. 



Occupational  and  opinion  leaders 

In  addition  to  Goba  and  Members  there  are  others  who,  because  of 
their  being  expert  in  specific  occupations,  are  recognized  as  leaders  by  the 
Ladakhis.  The  position  of  such  people  cannot,  however,  be  equated  with 
Goba  and  Member.  But  the  man  is  esteemed  high  because  of  his  being 
expert  in  a  particular  skill.  Since  the  villagers  bank  upon,  his  services, 
he  is  rated  higher  than  others.  Many  a  times  he  is  consulted  for  matters 
other  than  what  he  is  expert  in.  Among  such  experts  Lharje  or  Amchi 
is  an  important  man.  He  is  a  traditional  medicineman  of  the  Ladakhis. 
To  a  Ladakhi  an  Amchi  is  the  immediately  available  doctor.  A  govern¬ 
ment  dispensary  is  given  a  secondary  place.  In  the  event  of  a  sickness  the 
Lharje  is  contacted  first.  And  if  he  fails  to  provide  relief  people  go  to  the 
dispensary.  A  man  attains  Lharje’s  status  after  he  undergoes  intensive 
training  under  a  trained  Amchi.  Many  a  times  an  Amchi  is  contacted 
only  after  it  is  suggested  by  a  Lama.  Considering  that  Amchi  is  a  man 
of  knowledge  and  experience  the  villagers  even  consult  him  for  matters 
other  than  disease.  His  advice  does  help  resolve  minor  matters. 

Likewise  a  religious  man,  believed  to  be  controlling  the  supernatural 
powers,  is  also  considered  a  formal  leader.  The  man,  known  as  Chanspa, 
helps  recovery  of  those  who  get  adversely  affected  by  the  supernatural 
powers.  Individual  apart,  the  community  as  a  whole  recognises  the 
superiority  of  Chanspa  specially  when  some  calamity  is  anticipated.  He 
is  requested  to  avert  danger.  For  matter  related  to  supernatural  pheno¬ 
mena,  a  Chanspa  represents  the  village  community.  At  times  the  villagers 
may  seek  his  opinion  in  other  matters  in  which  he  is  not  basically  qualified. 
In  addition  to  Lharje  and  Chanspa,  Onpo  is  another  man  who  occupies 
a  prominent  position.  Though  not  included  in  village  council  he  comm¬ 
ands  a  position  of  respect.  Since  his  position  is  a  recognised,  one  the 
villagers  show  regard  to  the  person.  An  Onpo  is  approached  under 
adverse  circumstances.  And  he  manages  to  avoid  ill-luck  to  the  Ladakhis. 
The  Onpo  is  considered,  as  a  socially  superior  person.  The  villagers  bank 
upon  him  for  his  advice  and  guidance.  The  interference  of  religious 
leaders  into  secular  matters  is  not  ruled  out,  though  it  is  done  when  they 
are  asked  for  it.  In  village  community  these  people  continue  to  occupy 
the  positions  of  prominence. 

Goba,  Member  and  the  occupational  leaders  continue  to  occupy 
their  traditional  stature.  It  is  so  even  when  more  educated  people  are 
now  available  in  the  village  community.  More  education  and  better 
placement  in  service  are  yet  to  be  recognised  for  the  purpose  of  leadership. 
For  instance  Norbu,  a  medical  graduate  and  posted  as  Medical  Officer, 
is  a  resident  of  Spituk.  He  is  a  Ladakhi  himself  but  has  no  place  in 
leadership  hierarchy  of  Spituk.  Similarly,  there  are  quite  a  few  matrb 
culates  employed  as  teachers  and  clerks  but  having  no  status  and  role  in 
local  leadership.  It  may,  however,  be  mentioned  that  an  educated  man, 
representing  Kalhon’s  family,  may,  at  times,  be  used  as  spokesman  of 




villagers  when  some  dignitory  visits.  Master  Norb'u  from  Spitnk  is  one 
such  case.  He  is  normally  used  for  such  purpose  though  he  occupies  no 
position  in  leadership  hierarchy  at  village  level.  The  interesting  feature 
is  that  the  educated  people  duly  recognise  the  traditional  leadership.  They, 
like  any  other  Ladakhi,  are  submissive  to  the  decisions  taken  by  the  village 

In  addition  to  Goba,  Member  and  the  occupational  leaders  there  are 
some  other  important  men  who  are  considered  somewhat  above  the 
average  Ladakhis.  They  are  the  ones  vested  with  minor  privileges  having 
more  say  in  certain  matters.  Chucho  or  Sangcho  head  is  one  of  them. 
Sangcho  refers  to  the  section  of  village.  The  Member  of  the  village 
council  may  also  be  the  Sangcho  headman.  But  this  is  not  always  necess¬ 
ary.  In  some  cases  the  Sangcho  headman  is  different  from  the  Member. 
A  few  of  the  functions  discharged  by  the  two  are  almost  the  same.  But 
then  the  Member  remains  a  formal  leader  and  Sangcho  head  as  informal 
one.  Sangcho  headman  is  not  authoritarian  but  is  consulted  by  the  people 
by  virtue  of  the  senior  position  assigned  to  him  by  the  people.  There  is 
no  fixed  tenure  for  holding  the  position.  He  can  be  changed  as  and  when 
liked  by  the  people.  The  Sangcho  headman  has  more  say  in  Sangcho 
life.  The  organisation  of  monthly  worship  is  his  responsibility.  At 
the  same  time  he  can  be  assigned  some  responsibilities  on  behalf  of  village 
council  or  the  Gompa  organisation.  If  Sangcho  headman  is  unable  to 
distribute  work  among  his  people,  for  reasons  of  dissatisfaction  among 
the  latter,  there  is  an  alternative  to  do  the  same.  Tagril  system  of 
Ladakhis  forms  such  an  alternative.  According  to  this  system  the 
names  of  various  heads  of  families  are  separately  written  on  small 
pieces  of  paper.  These  pieces  are  thoroughly  mixed  while  kept  in  some 
container.  One  piece  of  paper  is  taken  out  of  this  container  and  the 
name  written  on  it  is  read.  Anyone  there  is  to  do  the  required  work. 
He  cannot  back  out  and  refuse. 

The  Sangcho  heads  are  also  consulted  by  Goba  and  Members  when¬ 
ever  found  necessary.  They  may  not  necessarily  agree  with  them  but  such 
consultations  help  explain  many  things  one  would  not  expect  from  younger 
generation.  When  the  informations  prove  revealing  it  may  help  arrive  at 
definite  decisions.  Consultation  of  Sangcho  head  is  specially  desired  in 
matters  connected  to  old  arrangements.  For  instance,  he  is  the  most 
knowledgeable  to  tell  about  the  traditional  irrigation  system,  its  norms 
and  procedure.  His  advice  is  sought  for,  but  he  has  not  been  given  any 
right  to  exert  as  reported  in  the  case  of  Goba  and  the  Member. 

The  Ladakhis  do  have  some  opinion  leaders.  Such  leaders  are 
approached  and  taken  help  of  for  certain  specific  purposes.  There  are  per¬ 
sons,  atleast  one  in  every  village  or  a  group  of  villages,  who  have  expertise 
knowledge  of  animals,  crops  and  other  practices  prevalent  among  the 
Ladakhis.  When  one  thinks  of  buying  an  animal  he  seeks  for  opinion  of 
the  expert,  Likewise  the  opinion  in  regard  to  the  matters  connected  with 
crops  is  sought  from  the  crop  expert.  Lately  the  opinion  of  educated  elites 



is  taken  in  matters  with  which  they  are  believed  to  be  conversant.  The 
latter  pertain  to  non-traditional  cultural  milieu  of  the  JLadakhis.  For 
instance,  when  someone  is  keen  to  send  his  son  or  daughter  for  higher 
education,  he/she  would  consult  the  most  educated  person  in  the  village. 
This  is  to  seek  his  opinion  and  advice.  Similarly  a  person  who  has  toured 
outside  Ladakh  would  often  be  consulted  by  one  who  is  planning  to  visit 
places  beyond  Ladakh.  The  opinion  leaders  are  meant  for  consultation 
alone  and  they  do  not  enjoy  any  authority.  Whether  one  consults  them 
or  not  is  all  voluntary.  People  approach  them  for  their  expert  background 
and  experience.  There  is  no  element  of  obligation  in  such  an  interaction. 

Village  council  and  wider  politics 

There  is  reported  a  relationship  between  village  council,  monastic 
organisation  and  the  wider  political  parties,  including  those  of  national 
character.  The  former  two  are  interconnected  from  long  past  and  con¬ 
tinue  to  beau  an  intimate  relationship.  Now  Spituk  council  has  three 
Members.  One  of  these  is  Lob-Zang,  a  Lama  who  is  the  manager  of 
Gompa.  His  say  in  secular  matters  is  as  important  as  in  the  monastic 
affairs.  But  the  relationship  with  wider  political  parties  developed  lately. 
Prior  to  Indian  independence  such  relationship  was  non-existent.  In 
rigorous  form  the  influence  of  wider  politics  on  the  traditional  pattern  of 
socio-political  control  came  only  after  1962  when  Kushok  Bakula,  the 
head  of  Spituk  monastery,  got  involved  in  national  politics.  Some 
informants  have  stated  that  during  the  election  campaign  for  Parliamen¬ 
tary  seat,  Kushok  Bakula  got  advantage  of  his  superior  religious  stature. 
The  village  council  under  his  religious  jurisdiction  decided  to  take  stern 
action  against  those  who  planned  to  oppose  Kushok.  The  Gobas  and 
Members  took  special  note  of  those  who  were  opposing  the  Kushok.  It 
was  declared  that  anyone  against  Kushok  would  be  denied  of  the  Lama 
services  and  community  cooperation.  At  the  same  time  the  supporters 
of  Kushok  would  not  allow  the  opponents  entry  in  their  houses,  severing 
thereby  their  commensal  and  connubial  relations.  Under  such  socio- 
religious  conditions,  the  Ladakhis  did  not,  initially,  dare  to  show  any 
opposition  to  Kushok  Bakula’s  election.  A  big  army  of  Lamas,  having 
hold  on  the  Ladakhis,  also  got  into  political  operation.  The  Lamas 
involvement  in  political  activity  was  in  addition  to  their  religious  role. 
Likewise  the  interplay  of  religion,  society,  and  politics  was  marked  during 
elections  of  State  Legislative  Assembly  when  there  was  contest  between 
Kushok  Thiksay  and  Sonam  Wangyal.  Even  when  National  Congress 
(the  Congress  of  Nehru  as  the  Ladakhis  call  it)  in  Ladakh  got  divided,  in 
1969,  into  Congress  ‘A’  and  Congress  ‘B’,  these  were  respectively  directed 
by  Kushok  Bakula  and  Kushok  Thiksay,  the  two  religious  heads  of  two 
different  monasteries. 

The  Ladakhis  continue  to  give  importance  to  Goba  and  the  Members. 
For  most  of  the  matters  they  are  the  first  to  be  approached,  and  are  recog- 



nised  as  the  leaders  and  the  spokesmen.  But  at  the  same  time  the  superio¬ 
rity  of  certain  other  persons  is  also  accepted.  For  instance,  Kushok’s 
position  is  supreme  in  spiritual  matters.  But  under  the  changing  leader¬ 
ship  pattern,  more  under  the  influence  of  outside  politics,  the  spiritual 
heads  imported  recognition  as  secular  heads.  In  this  respect  the  position 
is  all  the  more  important  in  Spituk  and  Thiksay.  Since  1953,  Kushok 
Bakula  (the  head  of  Spituk  monastery)  has  been  the  chief  political  leader. 
He  has  to  represnt  Ladakh  in  all  matters.  Belonging  to  Congress  ‘A’ 
party  of  Ladakh,  he  is  now  a  Member  of  Parliament.  For  many  years 
he  was  the  member  of  State  Assembly.  Although  Kushok  Bakula  now 
mostly  stays  in  Delhi,  he  continues  to  head  Spituk  Gompa  and  is  a  spiritual 
leader  of  the  Ladakhis.  The  Ladakhis  eagerly  wait  for  his  arrival  in 
Spituk  and  accord  him  a  big  welcome  for  his  being  their  spiritual  as  well 
as  the  secular  leader. 

The  extension  of  traditional  leadership  again  appeared  when  Sonam 
Wangyai  got  elected  to  State  Assembly  and  latter  joined  as  a  Minister. 
Sonam  Wangyai  also  belongs  to  Congress  ‘A’.  The  Congress  party  has 
become  very  popular  at  village  level.  So  much  so  that  the  Ladakhis  con¬ 
tact  the  Executive  Body  of  Congress,  in  Leh,  when  they  fail  to  decide 
matters  at  village  level.  Decisions,  under  such  circumstances,  are  sought 
from  the  members  of  Executive  Body  of  Congress.  The  Goba  and  the 
members  do  not  mind  the  approach.  The  growing  politicisation  has 
sharply  reacted  to  some  other  areas  of  Ladakhi  social  organisation.  With 
the  division  of  villagers  into  Congress  ‘A’  and  Congress  ‘B’  groups,  there 
appeared  recognition  of  Phasphun  groups.  When  two  families  out  of, 
say,  five  in  a  Phasphun  group,  decided  to  support  Congress  ‘A’,  and  the 
rest  Congress  ‘B’,  there  was  disintegration  in  the  group.  Subsequently 
the  separated  families  joined  Phasphun  groups  of  their  respective  political 
interest.  Such  an  impact  could  be  more  prominent  in  Thiksay  where 
recognition  of  Phasphun  groups  was  remarkable.  Forgetting  of  their 
long  links  and  association,  the  Phasphun  members  deserted  the  traditional 
groups.  Those  supporting  Congress  ‘A’  preferred  to  be  Phasphuns  of 
those  supporting  this  section  only.  Likewise,  the  supporters  of  Congress 
‘B’  got  themselves  united.  Many  of  the  Ladakhis  were  even  forced  to  do 
so  by  the  local  leadership  and  the  concerned  Kushok  and  the  Lamas. 

In  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  men  of  monastic  organisation  have  been 
having  a  big  say  in  Ladakhi  society,  some  people  have,  of  late,  started 
showing  indifference  to  them.  The  latter  feeling  specially  grew  out  of  the 
increasing  politicization.  Some  glimpse  of  disunity  among  the  class  of 
Lamas  is  another  cause  of  indifference.  To  meet  political  ends  the  villagers 
were  instigated  by  those  having  vested  interests.  As  a  result  of  the  increa¬ 
sing  trends  of  this  kind  a  party,  known  as  the  District  National  Congress, 
was  formed  in  1962.  This  was  in  addition  to  the  National  Congress,  the 
only  political  party  in  Ladakh  at  that  time.  The  District  National  Con¬ 
gress  was  headed  by  one  Tsering  Phunchok  who  fought  the  election  of 
Member  of  Parliament  against  Kushok  Bakula,  the  then  head  of  National 



Congress  and  a  Kushok  of  Spituk  Gompa.  This  was  the  first  incidence 
when  Kushok  Bakula  faced  political  opposition.  After  the  defeat  of 
Tsering  Phunchok  the  District  National  Congress  got  a  set-back  and 
ultimately  it  got  dissolved.  But  at  the  same  time  the  political  conscious¬ 
ness  kept  on  pricking  the  Ladakhis.  Around  1966  the  Kushok  (Nanwa 
Chanba  Stanzin)  of  Thiksay  Gompa,  belonging  to  Yellow  sect  of  Buddhism 
came  forward  with  the  idea  of  forming  a  new  political  party.  Consequently 
a  party,  known  as  Azad,  was  formed  in  the  year  1966  itself.  Kushok 
Thiksay  became  its  organizer  as  well  as  head.  Azad  became  another 
political  party  headed  by  one  of  the  top-ranking  religious  men,  the  Kushok 
of  Thiksay  Gompa.  Kushok  of  Thiksay  himself  fought  the  election 
against  Sonam  Wangyal,  a  candidate  supported  by  Kushok  Bakula. 
Wangyal  was  not  a  Kushok,  but  had  full  support  of  Kushok  of  Spituk 
belonging  to  National  Congress.  Kushok  Bakula,  a  staunch  supporter 
of  Wangyal,  was  in  better  position  to  mobilise  masses  for  his  being  Member 
of  parliament  and  head  of  a  bigger  monastery.  As  such  the  Kushok  of 
Thiksay  lost  against  Wangyal.  This  defeat  led  to  a  shaky  position  of 
Azad  party  which  gradually  came  to  an  end.  However,  the  differences 
between  two  Kushoks  and  their  supporters  continued  to  exist.  The  defeat 
of  Kushok  of  Thiksay  did  not  discourage  him.  In  due  course  he  managed 
to  have  a  few  supporters  from  National  Congress  causing  infighting  in  the 
party.  The  discontended  group  designated  itself  as  Congress  ‘B\  The 
new  party  was  again  headed  by  the  Kushok  of  Thiksay.  The  remaining 
section  of  the  National  Congress  came  to  be  known  as  Congress  ‘A’.  It 
continued  to  be  headed  by  Kushok  Bakula,  the  leader  of  undivided 
National  Congress.  This  division  of  National  Congress  took  place  in 
1967.  The  informants  reported  that  the  majority  of  Buddhist  population 
is  with  Congress  ‘A’.  But  most  of  the  Muslims  and  some  Ladakhis  are 
supporting  Congress  ‘B\ 

To  start  with,  the  National  Congress  was  the  only  party  in  Ladakh. 
For  many  years  it  worked  smoothly  with  total  consensus  of  the  people. 
As  per  the  respondents  of  Spituk  the  differences  of  opinion,  in  the  party 
workers,  appeared  for  the  first  time  over  the  working  of  Syndicate  (A 
consumer  cooperative  shop).  The  Syndicate  management  procured 
pashmina  and  other  wool,  at  reasonable  rates,  from  the  Ladakhis  and 
managed  to  provide  them  various  commodities  of  daily  use.  The  Lada¬ 
khis  met  their  daily  requirement  from  Syndicate  shop.  Suddenly  the 
Syndicate  faced  some  crisis  and  a  few  of  the  members  attributed  it  to 
mismanagement.  The  management  included  some  prominent  members 
of  Congress  ‘A’.  The  deteriorating  condition  led  to  the  dissolution  of 
Syndicate,  as  also  to  the  bifurcation  among  the  members  of  National 
Congress.  Subsequently,  some  members,  other  than  those  in  the  Syndi¬ 
cate  management,  conceived  the  idea  of  organising  a  new  political  party. 
And  this  was  ultimately  done.  Though  Syndicate  affair  might  have  been 
a  reason  of  disintegration  in  National  Congress,  the  attraction  for  politi¬ 
cal  power  has  its  own  place  in  the  matter. 



The  bifurcation  of  National  Congress  into  Congress  ‘A’  and  Congress 
‘B’  proved  harmful  to  the  masses.  For  political  ends,  some  of  the  vulner¬ 
able  situations  were  exploited  which  led  to  communal  disharmony.  Efforts 
were  made  to  achieve  political  motive  in  the  name  of  religion.  One  of 
such  incidents  led  to  the  strengthening  of  Congress  ‘B’.  The  respondents 
from  Sabu  narrated  the  incident  as  it  directly  involved  a  person  from  that 
village.  Yaqub  (a  Muslim)  and  her  sister  Leela  Chocho  were  living 
together  in  the  same  house  in  Sabu.  Both  were  living  comfortably. 
Yaqub  got  married  to  a  Ladakhi  girl  from  Nubra.  After  this  marriage 
Yaqub  adopted  Buddhism  and  got  his  name  changed  from  Yaqub  to 
Chhimat  Namgyal.  With  his  Buddhist  wife  Namgyal  continued  to  stay 
in  the  same  house  where  his  sister,  with  Islamic  faith,  was  also  staying. 
After  his  co version  to  Buddhism  Namgyal  put  Bodh  flags  (called  Tarsho) 
on  the  roof  of  the  house  he  lived  in.  Leela  Chocho  objected  to  it  and 
filed  a  claim  in  the  court  of  law  that  the  entire  property  should  be  in  her 
name.  In  the  meantime,  Namgyal  was  blessed  with  a  daughter.  The 
case  went  on  for  years  and  in  the  meantime  Namgyal’s  daughter  became 
young.  She  was  married  to  Tashi  Targis,  the  President  of  Congress  ‘A’. 
Because  of  his  son-in-law  being  in  powerful  position,  as  President  of 
Congress  ‘A’,  Namgyal  got  strength  to  fight  his  case  against  his  sister. 
Under  new  conditions  Namgyal  fixed  Tarsho  even  on  the  portion  of  the 
house  belonging  to  Leela  Chocho,  a  Muslim.  Retaliating  to  the  action 
she  removed  the  flags  and  it  gave  rise  to  a  big  conflict.  The  incident  was 
exploited  at  higher  political  level  of  Congress  ‘A’  who  charged  that  the 
Muslims  had  insulted  the  Buddhist  religion  by  removing  and  destroying 
the  Tarsho.  The  attention  of  the  religious  men,  in  position,  was  also 
drawn  to  this  act  and  issue.  Kushok  Togdan  of  Phiang  Gompa  sent  word 
to  all  prominent  Ladakhis,  through  Buddhist  Association  Leh,  that  their 
flag  had  been  insulted  and  that  they  should  all  assemble  in  Leh.  Within 
a  few  days  a  large  number  of  Buddhists,  from  various  parts  of  Ladakh, 
gathered  in  Leh.  They  organised  Dharna  and  procession  in  front  of 
Collector’s  office  and  the  market.  The  Buddhist  Association  put  some 
demands,  and  wanted  that  they  should  urgently  be  met  with.  One  of  the 
demands  was  that  those  who  insulted  the  Buddhist  flag  should  immediately 
be  turned  out  of  Ladakh.  When  the  demand  was  not  met  the 
mob  took  a  violent  turn  and  burnt  down  the  Collectorate  building.  Among 
other  demands,  one  was  that  the  Ladakhis  should  be  declared  as  Scheduled 
category.  Another  demand  was  that  there  should  be  a  Ladakhi  Minister 
in  the  Jammu  and  Kashmir  Ministry.  It  was  for  Wangyal  who,  then, 
happened  to  be  the  Member  of  Legislative  Assembly  from  Congress  ‘A’. 
The  demand  was  acceeded  to  and  Wangyal  prevailed  upon  the  Buddhist 
Association  to  withdraw  the  agitation.  The  situation  calmed  down  after 
the  agitation  strategy  achieved  its  political  motive,  though  it  led  to  the 
creation  of  a  rift  between  the  Muslim  and  the  Buddhist  population.  The 
old  informants  stated  that  this  kind  of  disturbance,  on  communal  basis, 
had  never  happened  before  in  Ladakh.  Becuase  of  a  special  kind  of 



manipulation;  the  incident  took  place  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  Ladakhis, 
being  Buddhists,  primarily  believe  in  nonviolence.  They  are,  by  religion, 
non-aggressive  and  tolerant.  After  this  incident,  which  oceured  in  June 
1969,  the  Congress  ‘B’  got  more  support  from  Muslim  population  who 
got  convinced  that  the  matter  was  instigated  by  the  supporters  of  Con¬ 
gress  ‘A’. 

In  1971  Parliamentary  election,  too,  the  interested  parties  worked 
under  the  cover  of  religion  and  communal  resource.  Kushok  Bakula  was 
opposed  by  Sonam  Wangdus.  The  latter  was  a  member  of  Leh  Congress 
Committee  and  comparatively  little  known.  To  start  with,  Congress  ‘B’ 
put  up  Wangdus  as  a  covering  candidate.  But  ultimately  he  was  left 
alone  to  contest  against  Kushok  Bakula.  Wangdus  got  a  good  support 
from  Muslims  of  Kargil.  Brij  Bharadwaj  (1971),  a  Hindustan  Times 
correspondent,  commented  that  though  both  candidates  are  Buddhists, 
religion  is  playing  no  less  role  in  electioneering  as  Wangdus  has  been 
adopted  by  the  people  of  Kargil  where  the  number  of  Muslim  electorate 
is  about  23,000  out  of  a  total  of  27,000;  while  out  of  the  total  electorate 
of  25,000  in  Leh  Tehsil  the  number  of  Buddhists  is  about  22,000.  Tension 
among  Buddhists  and  Muslims  in  Leh  and  stoning  of  mosque  are  some 
issues  which  are  being  fully  exploited  by  supporters  of  Wangdus  who  is 
depicted  as  saviour  of  mosque  even  though  he  is  a  Buddhist.  The  division 
between  the  two  factions  of  the  ruling  party  which  began  in  1965,  was 
temporarily  patched  up  early  this  year  following  the  efforts  of  State  party 
leaders.  But  these  differences  erupted  again  when  Kushok  Bakula  was 
given  the  party  mandate  for  Parliament.  The  two  factions  known  as  the 
Congress  ‘A’  and  Congress  ‘B’,  respectively  draw  their  support  from 
different  areas.  While  the  Congress  ‘A’  which  is  supporting  Kushok 
Bakula,  is  popular  in  Leh  Tehsil,  where  Buddhists  dominate;  the  Congress 
‘B’  is  popular  in  Kargil  Tehsil  where  Shia  Muslims  are  in  a  majority. 
Both  factions  also  enjoy  marginal  support  of  the  other  communities, 
but  the  division  between  the  two  factions  is  largely  on  communal  lines. 
Kushok  Bakula  a.gain  retained  the  parliamentary  seat  by  defeating  his 
lone  rival,  Sonam  Wangdus.  The  remark  given  by  Brij  Bbardwaj  of 
the  Hindustan  Times  may  be  quoted  in  the  context  of  this  victory.  The 
statement  given  by  him,  however,  seems  to  be  applicable  only  in  a  specific 
situation  and  for  a  short  span.  In  the  words  of  Bhardwaj,  ‘if  one  exa¬ 
mines  the  polling  pattern,  it  will  be  apparent  that  Ladakh  district,  which 
earlier  could  be  hailed  as  an  example  of  religious  amity  and  friendly 
relations  among  different  communities,  has  lost  the  distinction  and  has 
become  a  hot-bed  of  communal  intrigues.  For  instance,  when  the  votes 
at  Kargil  and  Nurba  were  counted,  Mr.  Bakula  was  trailing  behind  by 
over  8,000  votes.  These  two  areas  are  predominantly  Muslim  populated. 
When  the  counting  was  done  at  Leh  and  Zanskar,  Mr.  Bakula  not  only 
made  up  the  deficit  but  also  secured  a  winning  margin.  The  bigger  margin 
was  possible  because  polling  at  Kargil,  which  is  a  predominantly  Shia 
Muslim  area,  was  65  per  cent  against  over  87  per  cent  in  Leh  Tehsil, 



inhabited  by  Buddhist  supporters  of  Mr.  Bakula.  The  issues  in  the 
elections  were  not  economic  grievances  or  political  but  communal.  The 
main  political  weapon  used  against  Mr.  Bakula  by  his  opponent’s  was 
his  role  during  the  Buddhist  agitation  in  Leh  last  year.  They  blamed  him 
for  the  alleged  stoning  of  a  mosque  in  Leh  during  the  agitation.  Against 
this  Mr.  Sanam  Wangdus,  though  a  Buddhist,  was  hailed  as  saviour  of  the 


Religious  Attributes 

The  life  and  culture  of  Ladakhis  is  strongly  religion-ridden.  Religion 
is  a  dominant  force  and  its  manifestations  are  apparent  in  all  the  major 
aspects  of  Ladakhi  social  structure.  It  has  been  observed  that  the  ele¬ 
ments  of  religion  provide  incentive  to  the  people  to  maintain  status-quo 
in  terms  of  traditional  life.  The  religious  contents,  people  believe,  provide 
them  security  under  the  more  difficult  conditions.  The  religion  in  Ladakh 
cannot  be  discussed  in  isolation  of  social  organisation,  economic  struc¬ 
ture  and  political  network.  People  remain  highly  obliged  to  religious 
men,  and  they  favourably  respond  to  the  call  of  such  people.  What 
Moorcroft  (1837)  observed  continues  to  hold  true.  He  observed  that 
Lamaism  seems  to  be  the  dictator  of  their  destinies,  and  the  words  of  a 
Lama,  however,  inconsistent  and  unbelievable  they  may  be  to  a  man  of 
common  sense,  are  nevertheless  law  for  him.  People  are  under  the  sway 
of  Lamas  who  act  as  their  guides,  advisers  and  liberators  from  sufferings. 
Anything  concerning  Gompas  (solitary  place  or  heritage),  Kushoks, 
Lamas,  Chomos  and  other  associated  religious  men  in  hierarchy  is  uni¬ 
formly  respected.  The  social  organisational  set-up  is  so  designed  that 
the  religious  elements  are  difficult  to  be  overlooked.  So  much  so  that 
a  large  number  of  families  spare  at  least  one  member  each  to  join  the 
brotherhood  of  priests.  Normally  the  youngest  child  from  family  is 
spared  for  the  purpose.  The  person,  so  spared,  devotes  his  life  to  religion 
and  leads  the  life  of  celibacy.  In  some  form  or  the  other  the  religion 
helps  meet  the  requirements  of  people.  There  is  a  great  deal  of  inter¬ 
dependence  between  the  people  of  secular  and  sacred  hierarchies.  The 
Gompa,  with  its  force  of  religious-men,  survives  on  the  village  society  and 
vice-versa.  For  a  disease,  not  easily  cured  through  worship,  the  Kushok 
is  consulted.  After  making  his  religious  calculations  the  Kushok  directs 
the  needy  to  contact  a  particular  Amchi  or  Lharje.  The  latter  may  or 
may  not  be  a  religious  man.  The  Amchi,  with  the  blessings  of  Kushok, 
treats  the  person.  Many  a  times,  the  Kushok  himself  suggests  for  white¬ 
washing  of  Chotten  to  get  rid  off  the  disease. 

Of  how  much  significance  the  religion  is  to  a  Ladakhi  is  again  Shown 
by  the  religious  institutions  and  places.  Such  existence  is  reported  at 
family,  village  and  regional  levels.  Almost  every  family  has  its  own 
Chotkang,  the  family  worship  room.  To  be  more  accurate,  it  may  be 
stated  that  out  of  300  families,  234  have  their  Chotkangs.  At  village 




level  there  is  either  a  Vihara  (a  small  form  of  Gompa)  or  Gompa  where 
large  scale  worship  is  arranged.  With  this  is  attached  the  force  of  religious 
persons.  A  few  villages,  having  small  Viharas,  then  together  recognise 
a  Gompa  as  belonging  to  them.  This  is  how  the  Ladakhis  are  linked  to 
wider  religious  organizations  and  institutions.  It  may  be  mentioned 
that  in  addition  to  numerous  Viharas  there  are  thirtyfive  Gompas  in 
Ladakh.  These  include  Hemis,  Chemrey,  Anle,  Takthak,  Thiksey,  Sta- 
kmo,  Deskit,  Spituk,  Sabu,  Tok,  Lekir,  Karsha,  Rangdum,  Stongsdey, 
Lingshet,  Stakna,  Bardan,  Zongkhal,  Sgangnon,,  Shachukul, 
Shang,  Mat  ho,  Lhangna,  Chumir,  Rizong,  Samtanling,  Nyoma,  Shey, 
Bazgo,  Alchi,  Mangyu,  Sumia,  Chikatan  and  Lingshet.  Sixteen  of 
these  are  more  popular  and  the  rest  fall  within  their  purivew.  They  belong 
either  to  Red  or  the  Yellow  sect  of  Ladakhi  Buddhism.  The  monastic 
institutions  are  in  possession  of  large  tracts  of  fertile  land,  depriving  many 
others  of  land  ownership.  But  still  people  have  regard  for  Gompas 
and  never  consider  them  as  centres  of  exploitation.  This  is  because 
of  their  deep  religious  sentiments.  As  position  of  Lama  is  not  heredi- 
ditary,  and  as  anybody  can  opt  to  become  Lama,  the  monastic  posses¬ 
sions  are  not  at  all  envied.  The  bigger  monasteries  maintain  library  of 
religious  books.  They  also  house  religious  paintings,  images  of  gods  and 
goddesses  and  other  objects  of  worship.  There  are  scrolls  which  adorn 
the  walls.  The  monastery  has  numerous  rooms  for  Lamas  and  storage 
purpose.  The  Gompas  are  perched  on  high  cliffs  and  their  buildings 
look  quite  impressive.  The  Ladakhi  art  on  metal,  clay  and  cloth  is 
well  depicted  in  the  Gompas.  Prayer  and  worship  hall  is  one  of  the 
important  places  in  monastery.  The  sketches,  portraits  and  statues  of 
Lord  Buddha  and  his  disciples  are  arranged  in  this  hall.  In  addition  there 
are  images  drawn  on  walls  and  cloth.  An  open  yard,  within  Gompa 
campus,  is  an  important  place  in  each  monastery.  It  is  surrounded  by 
buildings  with  projecting  balconies.  In  this  open  yard  the  Lamas  arrange 
dances  and  plays.  The  spectators  are  also  accommodated  in  the  same 
space.  A  large  number  of  windows  provide  light  and  majestic  appearance 
to  the  monastery.  In  a  monastery  the  space  for  various  category  of 
Lamas  are  defined.  The  Kushok  stays  in  a  room  at  the  top,  adjacent  to 
the  prayer  hall.  At  slightly  lower  elevation  to  Kushok’ s  room  are  the 
rooms  of  other  senior  Lamas.  At  the  lowest  elevation  of  Gompa  campus 
are  the  rooms  meant  for  beginner  Lamas.  Why  the  Gompas  are  built 
at  higher  elevation  has  its  own  background.  Religious  performances 
being  most  important  in  Ladakhi  life  are  not  to  be  disturbed  by  any  noise. 
At  the  same  time  their  sacred  identity  is  also  to  be  maintained.  The 
Ladakhis  are  of  the  opinion  that  these  two  requirements  are  easily  met 
by  having  monastery  at  higher  elevation. 

Gompa  is  a  big  repository  of  cultural  heritage  of  the  Bhotos.  Their 
art  is  depicted  through  multicoloured  paintings,  representing  designs  of 
various  kinds  including  human  figures,  animals,  temples,  flowers  etc. 
Numerous  designs  with  lines,  circles  and  dots  can  also  be  marked.  Like- 



wise  the  plastic  and  graphic  arts,  found  in  Buddhist  monasteries,  are  of 
a  high  order.  Sculpture  and  engraving  works  on  stone,  metal  and  baked 
clay  speak  of  their  high  standard  of  art.  These  art  pieces  are  nicely 
designed  and  arranged.  The  Ladakhi  tables  and  wooden  pillars  are  also 
engraved.  Dancing  costumes,  masks  and  dramatic  performances  are 
rare  preservation  of  art.  There  are  various  kinds  of  musical  instruments 
kept  in  Gompa.  The  common  Ladakhis  are  of  the  opinion  that  in  the 
absence  of  monasteires  a  great  dead  of  their  cultural  heritage  would  be 
lost.  The  famous  religious  pla*ys,  depicting  various  aspects  of  Ladakhi 
culturer,  are  organized  by  the  Gompa  people.  The  cultural  transmission 
among  Ladakhis  is,  to  a  great  extent,  done  through  the  religious  men  and 
the  religious  institutions.  A  big  display  of  music,  dance,  drama  and 
mystery  plays  is  done  in  the  Gompas  as  part  of  celebration  of  Gompa 
festivals.  How  much  faith  Ladakhis  have  in  religion  can  be  assessed 
from  Gompa  festivals.  I  participated  in  the  annual  fair  of  Hem  is  Gompa 
and  found  that  thousands  of  Ladakhis,  men,  women  and  children,  had 
come  for  worship,  as  also  to  observe  the  cultural  heritage.  The  devil 
dances  were  arranged  and  the  same  were  meaningful  to  the  Ladakhis. 
Demonology  and  Lamaism  are  found  prevalent.  In  addition  to  Chotkang 
and  Gompa,  there  are  Chortens  and  Manes,  the  popular  religious  struc¬ 
tures.  On  some  of  the  rocks  one  can  observe  gigantic  figures  of  god 
or  goddess.  Likewise  there  are  Gonchungs  found  in  large  number  of 
v<lla.ges.  Gonchungs  is  a  small  form  of  monastery  consisting  of  only 
one  room.  It  is  headed  by  a  Lama  or  two.  They  are  governed  by  the 
rules  of  bigger  monastery  in  near  vicinity. 

There  is  a  great  deal  of  reciprocity  between  the  religious  organisations 
(Gompa  and  its  men)  and  the  village  community.  Many  a  times  the 
relationship  involves  obligation.  Neither  the  community  nor  the  monas¬ 
tic  organisation  treat  their  role  as  burden.  Gompa  people  preach  religion 
to  the  Ladakhis.  The  preachings  also  help  them  to  be  honest  and  non¬ 
violent.  They  perform  various  kinds  of  worship  which  are  believed  to 
provide  protection  to  the  people.  The  big  hall  of  Gompa  is  also  used 
for  the  purpose.  Ladakhi  life  is  worship-ridden,  and  it  is  through  worship 
that  they  seek  solution  to  most  of  their  problems.  Thirdly,  the  Gompa 
men  direct  the  commoners  to  observe  better  principles  and  to  uphold 
good  deeds  in  life.  The  Kushok  would  forecast  the  ill-luck  and  other 
undesirable  events.  The  villagers  take  care  of  the  same  through  the 
prescribed  worship.  The  feeling  that  the  Ladakhis  thrive  well  under  the 
blessings  of  religious  men  creates  necessity  of  worship.  Blessings  are 
offered  through  worship.  In  secular  aspects  too  the  role  is  no  less  impor¬ 
tant.  On  many  occasions  Chang-jot  is  taken  help  of  for  seeking  decisions. 
His  words  have  sufficient  say  and  are  respected.  Then  the  Gompa  ins¬ 
titution  gives  loans,  in  cash  and  kind,  to  the  Ladakhis.  Any  villager 
can  borrow  grain,  Sattu,  money,  wood  etc.,  from  Gompa.  In  addtion 
the  religious  men  form  a  strong  medium  of  cultural  transmission.  The 
sacred  trees  are  declared  by  the  Lamas,  and  the  same  are  not  to  be  cut. 



They  are  protected  against  damage  by  the  animals.  The  safety  of  such 
trees  is  believed  to  be  helpful  to  the  human  beings  and  the  animals.  Like¬ 
wise  the  site  for  house  construction  is  approved  by  the  Lama  who,  after 
consulting  the  sacred  book,  approves  or  disapproves  of  the  site.  He 
tells  whether  the  site,  proposed  to  be  chosen  for  house  construction,  is 
free  of  evil  spirits  or  not.  In  case  of  a  death  the  Lama  decides  the  number 
of  days  for  which  the  dead  body  is  to  be  retained  in  the  house. 

In  response  to  what  Gompa  and  its  men  do  for  the  community,  the 
villagers  offer  free  service  in  various  forms.  For  any  new  construction 
in  Gompa  campus,  or  one  made  in  the  name  of  Gompa,  the  villagers  help 
outrightly.  They  provide  wood,  brick  and  labour.  The  religious  hierar¬ 
chy  need  not  bother  about  men  and  material  which  are  all  available  free. 
Similarly  the  agriculture  fields,  belonging  to  Gompa,  are  looked  after, 
for  all  purpose,  by  the  villagers .  Those  engaged  in  this  task  get  free 
meals  for  the  day.  In  case  the  Gompa  land  has  been  rented  out  to  some 
villagers,  a  part  of  the  produce  goes  to  the  rea.1  cultivator.  The  rest  goes 
to  Gompa.  Featherstone  has  also  stated  that  the  Lamas  are  generally 
dependent  on  the  population  for  contributions,  thus  laying  a  heavy  burden 
on  the  people.  These  gifts  are  frequently  in  kind — butter,  salt,  meat  and 
livestock— this  being  much  preferred  to  moeny.  During  the  harvesting 
season,  Lamas  are  told  to  go  round  and  collect  grant  for  their  monas¬ 
teries.  Then  the  Lamas  manufacture  images  and  charms  which  are 
sold  at  a  good  profit  and  large  fees  are  charged  by  them  for  supplying 
horoscopes  for  marriages  and  many  other  occasions.  On  the  occasion 
or  every  worship,  as  also  otherwise,  when  Lamas  happen  to  visit  any 
family,  they  are  offered  food  and  Gur  Gur.  Whenever  required  the 
labour  force  is  supplied  by  the  villagers  to  work  for  Gompa.  They  may 
be  engaged  in  carrying  water,  fuel  or  any  other  thing  to  Gompa.  Some- 
help  from  non-Lamas  is  always  sought  in  Gompa  kitchen.  The  Goba 
deputes,  by  rotation,  the  villagers  to  work  in  Gompa  kitchen.  Those, 
in  Spituk,  who  cannot  spare  a  man  from  family  depute  Tsering  Dorje  for 
the  purpose.  Durje  is  a  landless  labourer  and  stays  near  Gompa.  One 
engaging  Dorje  has  to  give  4  Khal  of  wheat  for  the  term.  In  addition, 
Dorje  gets  meals  from  Gompa. 

Although  the  religion  continues  to  dominate  Ladakhi  way  of  life, 
and  the  people  largely  depending  upon  it,  some  have  expressed  that  a  few 
of  the  religious  persons  have  lately  started  drifting  from  their  ideal  norms 
and  positions.  According  to  these  the  trend  now  is  from  Chomo  to 
Porno.  Chomo  is  the  nun,  a  religious  female,  and  Porno  refers  to  a 
married  female  and  house-wife  their  point  of  stress  is  that  the  Chomos, 
who  are  to  lead  a  life  of  celibacy,  have  also  started  marrying.  There  are 
a  few  factors  in  support  of  Lamas  and  Chomos  deviation  from  the  life  of 
celibacy.  Economic  reason  is  one  of  them.  Because  of  the  increased 
opportunities  for  employment  and  labour  job  some  of  the  religious  men 
and  women  feel  that  they  can  be  self-supporting.  They  can  survive 
without  depending  upon  Gompa.,  Under  such  condition  they  feel  like 



marrying  and  having  family  life.  Economic  compulsion  as  a  factor  to 
promote  Lamahood  and  Chomohood,  is  less  strong  under  the  changing 
conditions.  Simultaneously  the  attraction  for  worldly  life  has  increased, 
more  so  for  fancy  goods  lately  popularised  in  Ladakh.  The  greed  of 
married  life  is  towards  rise  among  the  religious  persons;  a  trend  tradi¬ 
tionally  not  approved  for  them.  Sometimes  the  condition  of  celibacy 
bears  hard  on  the  religious  persons.  For  increasing  sexual  desires  some 
of  them  decide  to  give  up  the  religious  life.  The  trend  has  given  a  setback 
to  the  position  of  religious  persons.  All  put  together  the  religious  circle 
is  getting  shaky.  Occasional  conflict  among  Lamas  is  adding  fuel  to  the 

Religion  in  Ladakh 

Gannhars  (1956)  have  reported  that  the  later-day  Buddhism,  with  its 
art  and  cultural  traditions,  did  pass  from  Kashmir  to  China  and  Tibet; 
and  it  happened  through  Ladakh  only.  Fa  Hien  (400  A.  D.)  also  reported 
of  some  Buddha  relics.  Cunningham  supported  this  view-point  while 
mentioning  that  one  of  these  relics  (the  alms-bowl)  still  exists  in  a  temple 
to  the  north  of  Le  (Leh).  The  holy  tooth,  another  relic,  was  believed  to 
be  carried  away  by  Ali  Sher  when  the  Musalmans  from  west  plundered 
Ladakh.  The  Chinese  pilgrim  also  made  mention  of  revolving  prayer 
cylinder  and  the  monks  in  Ladakh.  Still  some  controversy  remains  about 
the  introduction  of  Buddhism  in  Ladakh.  According  to  Cunningham 
it  was  introduced  in  the  time  of  Ashoka.  Gannhars  have,  however,  not 
agreed  with  it  and  they  are  of  the  opinion  that  “Buddhism  had  found 
its  way  into  Ladakh  and  the  adjoining  areas  before  the  time  of  the  great 
Indian  Emperor.  We  have  seen  how  Buddhism  was  one  of  the  living 
faiths  in  the  valley  in  the  time  of  Surrend.ra.  One  of  the  Yiharas  which 
the  first  Buddhist  ruler  of  Kashmir  erected  was  at  Saurasa  (present  day 
Suru)  beyond  the  Zojila.  Obviously  Buddhism  must  either  have  been 
prevalent  in  the  territory  or  was  introduced  into  it  in  the  time  of  Surrendra, 
to  make  him  found  a  monastery  there.  Later,  in  Ashoka’s  time  when 
Buddhism  spread  widely  in  Kashmir  and  other  territories,  it  is  only 
reasonable  to  assume  that  monks  in  greater  numbers  crossed  into  Ladakh 
and  Gilgit  from  Kashmir  and  Gandhara  to  spread  the  faith  more  exten¬ 
sively”  (Gannhar  1956:175). 

Buddhism  of  Ladakh  is  a  mixture  of  Bon,  the  old  religion  of  Tibet, 
Tantrism  and  Mahayama.  Some  have  also  referred  Lamaism  as  the 
religion  of  Ladakhi s.  The  chief  concept  of  their  divinity  is  defined  under 
three,  dimensions,  that  is,  Gautama  Buddha  (Sangyas),  religious  principles 
inculcated  by  Buddha  (Chhos  Kon  chok)  and  the  Lamas  following  these 
principles  (Gendun  Kon  chok).  Demonology  and  idolatry  are  the  other 
traits  found  in  the  religion  among  Ladakhis  are  believed  to  be  the  out¬ 
come  of  Bon  or  Pon  religion.  The  prevalence  of  mystic  doctrines  is 
still  marked.  Although  Buddhism  is  now  the  prevailing  faith,  the  Lada- 



khis  still  worship  and  make  offerings  to  some  old  divinities,  such  as  gods 
of  hills,  fields,  tree,  water  etc.  The  accounts  of  evil  spirits  and  traces 
of  sacrifice  are  also  found  among  the  Bhotos.  There  is  grea.t  deal  of 
Tantrism,  the  activities.  Under  Tantric  Buddhism  the  techniques, 
defined,  are  used  for  utilizing  good  and  evil  things.  Power  is  gained  by 
the  manipulation  of  good  and  evil  forces.  Some  take  Tantrism  as  deca¬ 
dent  form  of  Buddhism,  and  it  has  been  so  owing  more  to  ancient  Bon 
religion  of  Tibet,  and  also  shamanism  and  animism.  The  Tibetan 
Buddhism  (Lamaism)  which  has  largely  influenced  Ladakhi  Buddhism  is, 
as  stated  by  Sven  Hedin  (1910),  only  a  corrupt  form  of  Buddhism,  and 
under  an  outward  varnish  of  Buddhistic  symbolism  has  incorporated  a 
number  of  Sivaistic  elements  and  has  also  retained  the  superstitions  which 
in  pre-Buddhistic  times  found  expression  in  wild  Tantrical  devil  dances, 
rites  and  sacrifices.  The  object  of  these  ceremonies  was  to  exercise, 
banish  and  propitiate  the  powerful  demons  which  reign  every  where,  in  the 
air,  on  the  earth  and  in  water  and  whose  only  function  is  to  plague,  tor¬ 
ture  and  persecute  the  children  of  men.  In  spite  of  the  principle,  “not 
to  kill”,  the  monks  eat  meat  and  make  use  of  goat’s  blood  in  certain 
religious  rites.  Lamaism  has  absorbed  many  of  the  traits  of  Bon  religion. 

Among  the  offerings  made  to  the  gods  and  goddesses,  the  important 
ones  are  bowls  full  of  water,  grain,  butter  incense  and  lighted  wicks. 
Normally  the  bowls  are  placed  in  two  rows.  Another  common  offering 
is  a  figure  made  out  of  butter  and  dough.  It  is  at  times  mixed  with  red 
pigment.  While  pointing  on  such  figures  John  Blofeld  (1970)  has  again 
shown  connection  with  Bon  practices.  He  has  stated  that  these  figures 
are  shaped  in  different  ways  for  different  categories  of  deities,  each  shape 
having  its  esoteric  significance.  Tormas  (these  figures)  are  probably 
among  the  externals  which  Tibetan  Buddhism  inherited  from  the  ancient 
Bon  religion. 

Besides  Buddhism,  with  traces  of  other  religions,  some  of  the  Ladakhis 
have  adopted  Islamic  and  Christian  faiths.  Many  Ladakhi  girls  have 
married  Muslims  and  consequently  embraced  Islam.  Because  of  the 
efforts  of  Moravian  Christian  missionaries,  some  Ladakhis  have  become 
Christians.  Change  of  religion,  for  a  Ladakhi,  is  nothing  serious  and 
they  do  not  take  much  time  to  do  that.  There  is  no  serious  community 
reaction  to  change  of  religion.  Sometimes  two  real  brothers  and  their 
families,  with  different  religious  background,  are  found  living  in  the  same 
house.  That  way  the  Buddhists  have  all  along  been  tolerant. 

It  may  be  mentioned  that  Captain  Featherstone  (1926)  spoke  of  the 
Lamaism  as  dominant  religious  faith  in  Ladakh.  According  to  Feather- 
stone  the  Lamaism  of  Western  Tibet  extended  beyond.  Lama  is  a 
Tibetan  word  meaning  “superior  one”,  its  use  was  formally  restricted 
to  the  head  of  the  Lamasery,  and  strictly  speaking,  it  is  applicable  only  to 
abbots  and  the  highest  monks,  though  out  of  courtsey  it  is  now  used  for 
almost  all  monks  and  priests.  In  Ladakh,  they  have  power  and  influence 
in  every  possible  phase  and  walk  of  life  with  the  result  that  it  is  the  most 



priest-ridden  place  in  the  world.  The  Lamas  are  good  natured  men. 
Their  education  consists  in  committing  to  memory  the  sacred  word,  and 
prayers  of  Buddha,  which  are  in  many  cases  unintelligible  to  themselves. 
Before  Lamaism,  two  earlier  religions  flourished  in  Ladakh — Bonchos 
and  Buddhism — many  features  of  both  of  these  being  embodied  in  the 
present  day  Lamaism.  The  Bon  religion  dates  from  time  immemorial  in 
Tibet  and  the  neighbouring  territory,  and  is  described  by  Waddell  as 
“animistic”,  devil  dancing,  or  shamanist,.  It  flourished  in  Western  Tibet 
from  the  earliest  times  down  to  1300  A.D.,  when  it  practically  died  out, 
though  much  of  its  ritual  and  demonology  was  absorbed  by  Buddhism  and 
later  by  Lamaism.  Buddhism  was  introduced  into  Western  Tibet  as 
early  as  200  B.C.  Besides  the  introduction  of  Buddhism  from  India 
by  the  Mons  tribe,  it  was  also  brought  from  the  West  by  the  tribe  of  Dards 
from  Gilgit.  The  inhabitants  being  mostly  nomads  it  became  essential 
to  provide  centres  of  Buddhist  teaching  by  founding  monasteries.  More 
colonists  came,  and  around  these  religious  settlements,  villages  sprang 
up.  Towards  the  beginning  of  eleventh  century,  the  religion  known  as 
Lamaism  had  come  from  Central  Tibet  and  was  favoured  by  a  line  of 
kings  of  Ladakh,  who  did  everything  to  promote  it. 

Religious  sects 

In  Ladakh  there  are  two  distinct  religious  sects;  one  is  known  as  Red 
and  the  other  as  Yellow.  Some  of  the  monasteries  belong  to  Red  and 
others  to  the  Yellow  sect.  In  the  initial  stage  there  were  no  such  divi¬ 
sions  in  the  religion  of  Ladakhis.  These  developed  later  on.  Nyimapa 
was  the  earliest  sect  and  its  religious  men  wore  red  dresses.  Gelukpa 
(the  virtuous)  sect  was  originated  around  the  middle  of  14th  century  by 
Tsongkhapa,  and  its  religious  persons  wear  yellow  dresses.  The  disci- 
plies  of  Tsongkhapa  are  known  as  Yellow  Hats.  They  distinguished  from 
the  Red  Hats  of  the  past.  The  background  of  its  formation  is  provided 
by  certain  principles  and  their  nature  of  observance.  The  feeling  of 
inferiority  or  superiority  between  the  followers  of  two  sects  is  not  marked 
apparently,  though  some  people  hold  the  superiority  of  one  over  the  other. 
It  has  further  been  reported  that  Yellow  sect  Lamas  represent  Henayana 
or  little  vehicle  while  the  Red  sect  Lamas  represent  Mahayana  or  great 
vehicle.  Henayana  and  Mahayana  are  the  two  subdivisions  in  Buddhism. 

It  has  been  reported  that  the  religious  persons  of  Yellow  sect  take  more 
care  of  the  religious  prohibitions  and  sanctions.  Some  laxity  is  reported 
in  case  of  those  who  follow  Red  sect.  For  instance  the  carriers  of  Red 
sect  can,  at  times,  even  marry  and  are  allowed  to  drink  Chang.  The  same 
are,  however,  forbidden  for  Yellow  sect  priests.  People  explain  that  the 
Red  sect  preaches  that  the  world  is  an  illusion.  It  also  speaks  for  equality. 
The  Yellow  sect  demands  doing  good  to  all.  It  also  recommends  for 
equality.  Featherstone  writes  that  to  introduce  his  sect  in  Western 


ftffe  LADAKHI 

Tibet,  Tsongkhapa,  sent  an  embassy  about  1400  A.D.  The  two  ascetics 
went  to  Leh.  The  king  gave  command:  At  today’s  council,  whoever 
attends,  be  it  ascetic  or  a  low  caste  man,  Bheda,  Mon,  or  shoemaker,  he 
should  not  be  refused  admittance.  The  two  ascetics  made  over  the 
present  to  the  king  who  was  delighted  with  it.  This  made  the  king  build 
several  more  monasteries;  these  followed  the  new  doctrine,  in  consequ¬ 
ence  of  which  many  existing  monasteries  exchanged  the  old  doctrine  for 
the  new.  Tsongkhapa’s  sect  eventually  became  the  established  church 
of  Lamaism. 

Though  there  is  some  difference  in  the  principles  observed  by  the 
followers  of  two  sects,  they  do  not  maintain  distance  among  themselves. 
The  Lamas  of  the  two  sects  meet  each  other  and  participate  together  in 
certain  major  worships.  They  can  go  to  each  other’s  monastery  and 
perform  worship.  Even  Kushoks  can  participate  in  such  performances. 
On  some  occasion,  the  Lamas  from  different  monasteries  (belonging  to 
Red  as  well  as  Yellow  sect)  gather  in  one  Gompa  to  recite  the  sacred  text 
of  Kanjur  (Shah-Hger)  and  Tanjur  (Stan-Hgyur).  The  former  consists 
of  about  108  volumes  and  the  latter  of  225  volumes.  The  philosophical 
teachings  of  the  two  are  also  not  different.  The  Lamas  of  the  two  sects 
are  compromising.  But  if  there  is  some  instigation  the  difference  flare 
up.  For  instance  a  serious  conflict  arose  after  provocation  of  trainee 
Lamas  by  some  non-religious  and  religious  elements.  It  happened  in 
Buddhist  School  of  Philosophy,  Leh,  where  the  trainee  Lamas  from  Red 
and  Yellow  sects  came  to  a  clash.  The  incident  created  ill-will.  The 
training  in  Buddhist  philosophy  was  started  in  Leh  school  after  1959  when 
Tibet  borders  were  sealed.  In  1968-69,  the  students  from  two  sects 
clashed  and  resorted  to  beating  of  each  other.  So  much  so  that  separate 
prayers  had  to  be  arranged  for  the  members  of  each  sect.  The  trainees 
of  one  sect  refused  to  learn  from  a  teacher  belonging  to  other  sect.  Efforts 
were  then  made  for  reconciliation.  The  tension  minimised  but  the  rela¬ 
tions  could  not  be  revived  to  original  cordiality. 

That  the  Red  sect  gives  more  freedom  to  its  Lamas  could,  be  made 
clear  by  the  people  of  Kuyul.  The  narration  relates  to  a  Lama,  incharge 
of  Kuyul  Vihara.  Nawang  Pulzor,  a  Lama,  is  the  present  incharge  of 
Kuyul  Vihara.  He  hails  from  Henley  where  his  father  Tashi  Palla  lives. 
Out  of  four  children  of  Tashi  Palla,  Pulzor  opted  to  become  Lama.  He 
was  the  youngest  of  all  and  became  Lama  at  the  age  of  twenty.  Nawang, 
Drotten,  his  master,  made  him  Lama  and  gave  him  religious  training 
(including  reading,  writing  and  dramatics)  for  about  12  years  in  Henley 
Gompa.  Later  on  he  was  made  incharge  of  Kuyul  Vihara.  But  soon 
after  he  got  married.  His  position  of  priest  and  incharge  of  Vih?ra 
remained  undisturbed.  The  Red  sect  contained  him  in  Lamasery.  The 
villagers  continue  to  pay  him  the  same  respect  though  he  got  married. 
He  continues  to  perform  all  sorts  of  worship.  Pulzor  has  been  granted 
cultivable  land,  worth  six  Batti,  by  Henley  Gompa.  He  is  now  40  years 
old  and  functions  as  a  Red  sect  Lama,  though  having  a  wife,  one  year 

religious  attributes 


old  son  and  six  year  old  daughter.  Pulzor  has  lately  decided  to  form 
one  of  his  sons  as  Lama. 

For  the  religious  persons  of  Yellow-robed  sect  there  are  compara¬ 
tively  more  inhibitions.  They,  under  the  force  of  religion,  are  required 
to  observe  abstinence  from  sex.  The  Lamas  of  this  sect  would  not  commit 
adultery  and  are  not  supposed  to  indulge  in  killing,  stealing,  drinking 
and  smoking.  No  animal  would  ever  be  slaughtered  by  these  Lamas. 
They  would  not  eat  meat  in  Gompa  campus.  To  keep  up  feeling  of 
equality  is  another  important  feature  of  the  men  of  this  sect.  While  in 
Gompa  the  Lamas  eat  one  meal  a  day.  A  large  part  of  their  time  is 
spent  in  meditation. 

Religious  beliefs  and  worship 

In  the  religion-dominated  community  of  the  Ladakhis  there  is  a  strong 
religious  belief  system.  Some  elements  of  the  latter  confine  to  the  reli¬ 
gious  dimensions  alone.  There  are  others  having  implications  in  non¬ 
religious  arena.  In  this  context  the  cylindrical  prayer  wheel  of  the  Lada¬ 
khis  carries  lot  of  importance.  There  are  few  forms  of  this  prayer  wheel. 
One  is  rotated  while  holding  in  the  hand.  And  the  Ladakhis  are  seen 
rotating  it  more  often.  They  do  so  even  while  walking,  or  talking  to 
some  one.  There  are  other  wheels  which  are  fixed  in  the  walls,  especi¬ 
ally  in  Gompa  campus.  A  passer-by  rotates  them  with  the  pressure  of 
hands.  There  are  still  others,  the  bigger  ones,  being  operated  by  the 
force  of  flow  of  water.  These  prayer  wheels  are  fixed  near  the  water 
channels.  The  wheels  contain  sacred  literature,  especially  the  Mantra 
“Om  Mane  Padame  Hum”,  written  on  the  papers.  This  coiled  sacred 
literature  rotates  with  the  motion  of  the  wheel.  A  broadly  accepted 
belief  is  that  more  one  rotates  the  wheel,  the  more  religious  merit  be/she 
gets.  Every  rotation  is  equated  to  the  uttering  of  sacred  Mantras  con¬ 
tained  inside  the  wheel.  The  religious  merit  would  be  more  when  the 
rotation  frequency  is  more.  Rotating  the  prayer  wheel  is  also  believed 
to  help  remove  sins. 

Belief  in  achieving  religious  merit  is  again  expressed  through  Chor- 
tens  and  Manes,  the  two  religious  structures.  A  Chorten  is  pagoda¬ 
like  structure  and  is  constructed  to  hide  the  ashes — remain  of  the  cremated 
person.  After  the  dead  body  of  a  superior  or  good  man  is  cremated,  its 
remains  are  mixed  with  clay.  Small  models  are  carved  out  of  this  paste. 
These  are,  at  times,  stamped  with  a  Buddha  image.  They  are  then  placed 
inside  the  Chorten  and  the  structure  is  raised  over  it.  Some  people  throw 
the  ashes— remains  in  rivers  or  on  the  top  of  hills.  Sometimes  the  sacred 
literature  left  behind  by  the  dead  person  is  also  kept  in  the  Chorten. 
The  formation  of  Chortens  is  towards  decline  People  do  not  find  time 
to  do  it.  It  is  now  built  only  in  case  of  a  few  superior  persons.  Some 
of  the  old  Chortens  are  in  a  dilapidated  condition.  Some  rich  men  may 
build  a  Chorten  even  when  there  is  no  death  in  his  house.  This  may  be 




done  on  the  advice  of  Lama.  These  structures  are,  by  and  large,  kept  in 
good  condition,  nicely  plastered  with  clay  or  at  times  whitewashed  and 
coloured.  The  Chortens  vary  in  size,  though  the  shape  almost  remains 
uniform.  Kagani  is  a  kind  of  Chorten  raised  above  the  ground  and 
supported  on  two  sidewalls.  It  contains  some  clay  figures.  Some  of 
the  precious  things  are  kept  inside  Kagani.  While  passing  under  it  the 
villagers  touch  Kagani  with  their  heads  to  achieve  religious  merit.  The 
villagers,  and  not  the  Lamas,  prepare  Kagani.  The  latter  is  not  built 
after  the  death  of  anyone.  The  Manes  are  long  and  massive  stone  walls. 
One  would  come  across  Manes  while  approaching  a  village.  These  are 
also  located  anywhere  on  the  way,  or  even  within  the  village  boundaries. 
There  is  a  great  variation  in  the  size  of  the  Manes.  In  height  it  may  be 
from  4  to  6  feet ;  in  width  from  5  to  10  feet,  and  in  length  from  a  few  yards 
to  a  few  furlongs.  On  many  of  the  stones,  forming  Mane,  are  the  engra¬ 
vings  and  inscriptions  of  sacred  hymns.  More  popular  of  these  are 
“Om  Mane  Padme  Hum”  and  “Om  Vajra  Pani  Hum”.  On  some  of  the 
stones  are  made  ima.ges  of  Buddha  and  other  gods  and.  goddesses. 

“Om  Mane  Padme  Hum”  is  the  most  common  religious  Mantra 
found  on  the  stones  of  Mane.  The  repetition  of  this  Mantra  is  common 
among  the  Ladakhis.  In  spite  of  so  much  popularity  of  the  hymn,  most 
of  the  Ladakhis  are  not  in  a  position  to  explain  the  exact  meaning  invol¬ 
ved.  However,  what  Tyndale  Biscoe  (1971)  explains  holds  true  at  wider 
level.  Accordingly  the  Mantra  means  “O  God  of  the  jewel  on  the  Lotus”, 
or  as  it  has  been  interpreted  to  me:  “May  my  soul,  O  God,  be  like  the 
jewel  of  water  which  lies  on  the  lips  of  the  lotus  leaf  just  as  it  is  going  to 
fall  into  the  lake  and  be  lost  in  the  ocean  of  water  (/.£.,  be  lost  in  Nirvana).” 
In  case  of  Mane  the  religious  merit  goes  to  those  who  put  stones  on  it, 
as  also  to  those  who  keep  it  towards  right  while  passing  by  its  side.  Cap¬ 
tain  Featherstone  (1926)  has  also  stated  that  many  of  the  Ladakhis  trans¬ 
late  Om  Mani  Padmi  Hong  as  addressed  to  Buddha,  thus  “Oh  thou  who 
dwellest  in  the  lotus  leaf”  or  “O  jewel  in  the  lotus,  thus  may  he  be,  Amen.” 
When  Featherstone  visited  Ladakh,  the  Manes  were  still  more  popular. 
While  writing  on  them,  he  has  stated  that  at  the  ends  of  a  Mane  wall  there 
are  frequent  structures  called  Chortens,  though  at  times  the  latter  are  seen 
quite  above.  They  are  built  on  a  large  square  pedestal,  which  is  surmoun¬ 
ted  by  whitewashed  stones.  On  the  top  is  generally  a  small  wooden  globe 
supported  by  a  pole,  varying  in  size.  Just  in  the  outskirts  of  Leh.;  on  way 
to  Hemis,  is  a  very  big  Mane.  Featherstone  described  it  as  the  longest 
Mane,  with  a  Chorten  at  each  end.  It  was  built  by  Deldon,  a  king  who 
reigned  between  1620  and  1640.  The  religious  belief  in  regard  to  Chor¬ 
tens  and  Manes  is  again  more  or  less  akin  to  one  explained  in  the  con¬ 
text  of  cylindrical  prayer  wheel.  Whenever  the  Ladakhis  come  across  a 
Chorten  or  Mane,  they  would  always  pass  by  its  side  while  keeping  the 
structure  towards  right  side,  even  if  they  have  to  cover  more  distance. 
Many  of  them  would  even  take  a  few  rounds  of  it  if  they  are  not  in  hurry. 
So  doing  would  not  only  remind  them  of  the  religion  but  also  would  help 



them  achieve  more  religious  merit.  One  round  of  the  structure  is  believed 
to  repeat  the  sacred  Mantra  as  many  times  as  the  Mantra  written  on  the 
stones  forming  the  structure.  At  the  same  time  these  structures  are 
believed  to  remind  of  religion  to  the  Ladakhis.  Those  who  do  not  pay 
heed  to  such  structures  are,  it  is  believed,  bound  to  be  harmed  in  this  as 
well  as  in  the  later  life.  In  this  connection  it  may  be  pointed  out  that 
Tundup  of  Spituk  suffered  from  paralysis  after  he  removed  a  part  of 
Mane  from  in-front  of  his  house.  Now  aged  about  50,  Tundup  commit¬ 
ted  this  act  some  13  years  back  and  since  then  suffering  from  paralysis. 
Later  on  he  got  a  new  Mane  made.  But  it  did  not  help  him.  It  may, 
however,  be  pointed  out  that  Chortens  and  Manes  can  be  shifted  to  other 
sites  after  performing  Archok  worship.  After  this  worship  the  struc¬ 
tures  can  be  demolished  and  made  again  at  the  desired  site. 

It  has  been  reported  that  out  of  Chortens  and  Manes,  the  former 
are  older.  The  origin  of  Chorten  is  explained  in  relation  to  Buddha.  For 
his  various  actions  the  Chortens  were  built.  We,  thus  find  enlighten¬ 
ment  Chorten,  victory  heads  Chorten,  defeating  the  evil  spirit  Chorten 
and  five  heads  and  many  heads  Chorten.  These  Chortens  were  further 
built  after  the  of  enlightened  people.  The  kings  got  the  Manes 
built  in  the  memory  of  their  fathers.  Some  criminals,  as  part  of  punish¬ 
ment,  helped  build  Manes.  Every  Gompa,  the  chief  repository  of  Lada¬ 
khi  religion,  celebrates  its  annual  festival.  Thousands  of  Ladakhis, 
irrespective  of  their  sect,  came  to  participate.  A  common  belief  is  that 
the  worship  on  this  occasion  helps  avoid  calamity  on  the  people  and  land 
of  Ladakh. 

The  Ladakhis  believe  in  rebirth  and  the  soul,  for  them,  never  dies. 
When  a  Kushok  dies  a  search  is  made  for  his  substitute.  Formerly  the 
task  was  given  to  the  chief  Lama  of  Lhasa.  He  found  the  reincarnate. 
The  Chief  Lama  would  tell  of  the  direction,  place  and  family  where  the 
Kushok  had  taken  rebirth.  The  Lamas  of  the  concerned  monastery  used 
to  act  accordingly  and  searched  the  new  born.  The  informants  further 
expressed  that  the  Chief  Lama  of  Lhasa  could  tell  of  certain  other  identi¬ 
fication  marks.  The  description  of  the  house  and  the  human  beings  and 
animals  thereof  could  also  be  given.  The  Lamas  located  the  place  as 
well  as  the  infant.  A  few  of  the  belongings  of  late  Kushok  mixed  with 
some  others  were  then  kept  before  the  infant.  If  the  child  touched  uny 
of  the  articles,  belonging  to  Kushok,  it  was  confirmed  that  he  is  reincar¬ 
nation.  Since  then,  he  got  the  treatment  given  to  a  Kushok.  The  belief 
of  the  Ladakhi,  in  this  context,  does  not  end  here  itself.  If  somehow 
the  rebirth  was  delayed  the  Lamas  geared  up  their  worship  frequency  for 
early  reappearance  of  Kushok  in  human  form. 

One  of  the  ways  of  achieving  religious  merit  is  the  counting  of  beads 
of  a  rosary.  All  Lamas,  and  many  others,  possess  such  rosaries  and  keep 
on  counting  the  beads,  accompanied  by  the  murmuring  of  “O m  Mane 
Padme  Hum”.  The  rosaries  also  speak  of  Ladakhi  religious  devotion. 
Some  Ladakhis  can  be  seen  wearing  rosary  on  their  wrist  and  in  the  neck, 



Corresponding  to  the  number  of  Kangur  volumes,  the  beads  also  number. 
108.  The  more  the  counting  of  beads,  the  more  is  the  religious  merit. 
John  Blofeld  (1970)  has  explained  that  the  number  of  beads  in  rosary, 
as  hundred  and  eight,  is  borrowed  from  ancient  India  and  is  said  to 
correspond  to  some  heavenly  bodies  of  special  importance  in  astrology. 
In  practice,  each  set  of  a  hundred  and  eight  repetitions  is  counted  as  a 
hundred  and  the  remaining  eight  thrown  in  for  good  measure  in  case  some 
beads  have  inadvertently  slipped  through  the  devotee’s  hand.  Rosaries 
can  be  of  any  suitable  substance  but  more  favoured  kind  are  those  made 
of  so  called  Bodhi  seeds.  Another  religious  beief  of  the  JLadakhis  is  in 
regard  to  the  Buddhist  flags  (Tarchoks),  so  popularly  seen  all  around. 
Such  Buddhist  flags  are  always  hawing  some  hymns  printed  on  them.  The 
flags  can  specially  be  noted,  waving  in  large  number,  on  the  roofs  of  the 
houses  and  monasteries,  as  also  on  Chortens,  Manes  and  other  religious 
structures.  In  fact,  Tarchoks  form  one  of  the  most  notable  items  of 
Buddhist  in  Ladakh.  Such  flags  are  generally  prepared  by  the  Lamas  and 
supplied,  on  demand,  to  the  genera.1  public.  The  religious  men  suggest 
to  install  such  flags.  The  flags  are  square  in  shape  and  are  fixed,  when  in 
large  number,  along  a  thin  rope.  The  flags  are  installed  in  normal  course 
as  well  as  in  difficulty  when  suggested  by  the  religious  men.  In  both  the 
cases  the  belief  is  that  installation  of  flags  brings  religious  merit  to  those 
who  instal  them.  The  wind  causes  waiving  of  flags  alongwith  religious 
inscriptions  on  them.  Such  a  waving  is  believed  to  add  to  the  religious 
merit.  The  more  the  waving,  the  more  the  religious  achievement.  In 
order  that  such  flags  may  wave  faster  they  are  usually  installed  at  points 
comparatively  higher  in  elevation.  An  added  belief  is  that  the  attain¬ 
ment  of  religious  merit  helps  conquer  forces  of  destruction.  Tarchoks 
are  also  installed,  in  the  interest  of  religion.  The  belief  is  that  the  waving 
of  flags  helps  expand  the  religion.  With  the  wind  the  Buddhism  is  likely 
to  spread  to  all  the  worid.  Similar  to  Tarchek  is  Turchen,  an  additional 
medium  to  achieve  religious  merit.  Turchen  is  a  structure  consisting  of 
a  big  wooden  pole  fixed  in  front  of  the  house.  The  pole  is  wrapped  with 
multicoloured  pieces  of  cloth  printed  with  sacred  hymns.  These  cloth 
pieces  wave  in  the  air  causing  religious  merit  to  those  who  installed 
them.  „ 

The  Ladakhis  are  terribly  scared  of  evil  spirits  and  ghosts.  They 
have  devised  various  means  of  protection  against  them.  One  of  these  is 
Chan  which  refers  to  various  kinds  of  paintings  made  on  the  outer  sur¬ 
face  of  wahs  of  the  house.  The  paintings  are  made  by  the  Ladakhis  with 
striking  colours.  The  front  wall  of  the  house  is  specially  preferred  for 
Chan.  Most  of  the  sketches  are  represented  with  dotted  designs  pre¬ 
pared  out  of  red  ochre.  Human  figures  cairying  swords  are  also  drawn. 
One  also  finds  arimal  figures  and  crossed  squares  and  rectangles.  The 
paintings  are  initially  made  after  the  house  is  constructed.  They  are 
redone  whenever  people  find  them  fading.  These  paintings  are  not  meant 
for  decoration  but  serve  as  protection  against  evil  spirits.  The  inmates 



of  the  house  art  believed  to  be  protected  from  c\il  spirits  after  the  for¬ 
mation  of  Chan. 

There  are  some  popular  belie fs  in  legard  to  the  abode  of  benevolent 
and  malevolent  supernatural.  A  commonly  accepted  view  is  that  their 
abode  is  in  stones,  hillocks,  trees  and  water  sources,  specially  spiings. 
Common  abode  of  Lhu  (a  malevolent  spirit)  is  the  spring,  though  it  is  also 
reported  to  stay  on  a  tree  called  Lharchang.  The  Ladakhis  regard  this 
tree  as  sacred.  In  regard  to  such  a  tree  there  are  certain  considerations. 
The  tree  is  to  be  respected  like  Mane  and  Chorten.  While  passing  by 
the  side  of  this  tree,  the  Ladakhis  keep  it  towards  right,  a  respectable  act. 
No  branch  or  any  other  part  of  this  tree  is  cut  or  burnt.  Even  if  this  tree 
has  fallen  because  of  wind  or  erosion  it  is  not  to  be  cut  or  taken  away. 
Its  wood  is  not  to  be  used  for  any  purpose.  Rather,  the  tree  is  worshi¬ 
pped.  Sabdakh  (very  small  species  of  lizard)  is  said  to  be  another  abode 
of  Lhu.  It  is  never  killed  and  instead  provided  protection.  When  one 
comes  across  a  dead  Sabdakh  he  approaches  Lama  or  Onpo  to  get  the 
suspected  danger  avoided.  If  need  be  a  worship  is  arranged  for  the  pur¬ 
pose.  Further,  there  are  some  who  opine  that  the  supernaturals  change 
their  abode.  In  this  context  an  interesting  case  has  been  cited  by  the 
people  of  Spituk.  How  sudden  technological  change  reacted  to  this  aspect 
of  Ladakhi  social  structure  is  revealed  in  the  case.  While  constructing  the 
Leh  airfield  some  of  the  rocks  at  the  back  of  Spituk  Gompa  were  broken. 
This  was  done  to  avoid  obstruction  in  the  landing  and  take  off  of  aircrfts. 
But  to  Ladakhis  these  rocks  were  the  abode  of  supernaturals.  When  the 
rocks  were  broken  the  supernaturals  got  annoyed  and  consequently  caused 
aircrash  of  Packet  plane.  This  is  how  the  Ladakhis  explained  the  cause 
of  aircrash.  They  attributed  it  to  the  anger  of  supernaturals.  The 
villagers  further  explained  that  it  was  after  the  breaking  of  these  rocks 
th  it  more  and  faster  winds  started  blowing.  These  not  only  caused 
damage  to  the  crops  but  also  created  hindrance  to  the  landing  and  take 
off  of  aircrafts.  In  the  background  of  such  explanations  a  large  scale 
worship  was  organised  to  appease  the  supernaturals  and  to  shift  their 
abode  to  other  convenient  rocks.  Such  religious  performance  pacified 
the  supernaturals  who  gradually  calmed  down.  Lhustor  is  the  main 
worship,  to  appease  Lhu  and  it  can  help  cause  smooth  shifting  from  one 
place  to  another.  Lamas  perform  this  worship  and  can  control  Lhu. 

Another  incident  of  similar  nature  could  be  reported  by  the  Ladakhis 
of  Spituk.  Looking  to  the  difficulty  of  drinking  water  the  concerned 
officials  of  the  government  proposed  to  deepen  the  water  source  (spring) 
in  Spituk  village.  They  also  decided  to  widen  the  source  so  that  more 
water  can  be  contained  in  it.  As  such  the  work  was  started  on  one  of 
the  springs  some  six  years  back.  Within  a  few  days  of  the  start  of  work 
the  persons  working  on  it  suffered  from  skin  disease,  causing  severe  it¬ 
ching  and  rashing..  The  Amchi  failed  to  cure  them.  When  Chanspa 
was  consulted  he  gave  amulets  to  the  victims  to  get  them  cured.  Chanspa 
told  that  the  disease  was  caused  by  Lhu,  the  spirit  living  in  the  spring. 



The  patients  gradually  recovered  but  the  work  could  not  be  completed. 
All  refused  to  work.  Because  of  their  strong  belief  in  religion  the  Lada- 
khis  would  not  easily  participate  in  any  development  work  where  their 
gods,  godesses  and  spirits  are  adversely  affected. 

Even  in  normal  course  every  Ladakhi  family  would  arrange  for  Lhu 
worship  at  least  once  a  year.  I  attended  this  worship  in  the  house  of 
Tsering  Phunchok,  a  Peon  in  the  Buddhist  School  of  Philosophy.  He 
invited  five  Lamas  for  the  purpose.  A  figure  of  Lhu  was  curved  out  of 
Sattu  and  kept  in  Chotkang  where  worship  was  going  on.  The  worship 
continued  till  the  afternoon  of  the  same  day.  After  it  was  over  Phunchok 
carried,  followed  by  the  Lamas  operating  on  flutes,  the  Lhu  figure  to 
Indus  river  flowing  nearby.  After  throwing  the  figure  in  river  water  all 
of  them  returned.  It  is  believed  that  Lhu  gets  appeased  after  the  organisa¬ 
tion  of  this  worship.  Further  the  worship  ensures  protection  against 

Some  of  the  Ladakhis  beliefs  bear  close  relationship  with  the  religious 
elements  and  occurrences.  As  part  of  their  belief  system  the  villagers 
explain  that  eating  of  meat  and  drinking  of  Chang  are  considered  inauspi¬ 
cious  on  the  worship  days,  that  is,  on  8th,  15th  and  30th  of  every  Ladakhi 
month.  Likewise  the  consumption  of  these  articles  is  forbidden  in  the 
first  month  of  each  Tibetan  calender  year.  Some  have  even  stated  that 
the  food  is  to  be  taken  on  alternate  days  during  this  month.  Likewise  the 
eating  of  fish  is  taboo  on  religious  ground.  One  would  invite  sin  while 
ignoring  the  above  prohibitions.  And  to  avoid  the  same  the  religious 
impositions  are  respected. 

The  religious  beliefs  of  the  Ladakhis  are  again  represented  through 
the  structures  of  Lhato  and  Samgo-Namgo.  Lhato  is  a  rectangular 
structure,  closed  from  three  sides.  It  is  made  of  mud  walls,  about  six 
to  seven  feet  high,  covered  by  the  projecting  roof.  The  structure  is 
generally  built  near  a  Gompa.  Sometimes  the  structure  is  seen  decorated 
with  s?,cred  flags  and  yak  horns.  When  a  person  commits  sin  he/she,  if 
so  desired,  comes  to  Lhato  to  seek  pardon  for  the  wrong  doing.  While 
seeking  pardon  the  person  fixes  some  sacred  flags  on  the  structure.  A 
broadly  accepted  belief  is  that  a  person’s  prayers  are  communicated  to  the 
main  gods  and  goddesses  of  Gompa  through  Lhato.  And  when  a  request 
reaches  Buddha,  through  Lhato,  the  person  is  pardoned.  One  approaches 
Lhato  because  the  worship  room  of  Gompa  does  not  always  remain  open. 
Lhato  is,  however,  approachable  all  the  time.  The  procedure  establishes 
the  fact  that  the  biggest  religious  institution  of  Gompa  maintains  links 
with  smaller  religious  structures.  There  is  no  isolation  of  mini  religious 
structures  from  the  giant  religious  structure.  The  mini  structures,  so 
popular  in  Ladakhi  villages,  have  their  respective  importance  in  the 
broader  religious  framework. 

The  belief  of  the  Ladakhis  in  ghosts  and  spirits  further  seeks  strength 
through  the  recognition  and  formation  of  Samgo-Namgo.  The  details 
of  Samgo-Namgo  have  already  been  given  in  the  earlier  narrations. 



Samgo-Namgo  is  formed  to  keep  away  the  evil  spirits  and  ghosts.  As 
per  Ladakhis  belief  the  ghosts  and  spirits  do  not  dare  to  enter  into  the 
house  when  Samgo-Namgo  is  there.  The  inmates  of  the,  thus, 
remain  safe.  Indirectly  it  provides  protection  against  diseases  which  are 
caused  by  the  evil  spirits  and  the  ghosts.  The  inmates  are  specially 
protected  from  Ch.atka,  a  sudden  attack  of  evil  spirit  causing  sickness. 
The  worship  for  Samgo-Namgo  is  occasionally  arranged.  Samgo-Namgo 
provides  a  special  protection  to  the  livestock.  The  fixing  of  goat  skull, 
as  part  of  structure,  hints  at  the  same.  It  ensures  prosperity  of  animal 
wealth.  The  figure  is  prepared  by  Lama  or  Labba.  Some  hold  the  belief 
that  Samgo-Namgo  is  useful  in  begetting  children.  The  explanation  is 
that  in  the  absence  of  Samgo-Namgo,  the  evil  spirit  may  get  into  the 
house  and  cause  abortion,  miscarriage  etc.  Such  chances  are  minimised 
after  having  Samgo-Namgo.  And  hence  better  chance  for  child  birth. 

In  spite  of  a  strong  protection  mechanism  the  Ladakhis  get  adversely 
affected  by  evil  spirits  and  ghosts.  And  the  relief  is  then  sought  through 
worship.  It  is  widely  believed  that  Lhuchas,  a  worship,  is  extremely 
helful  in  the  matter.  A  Lama  tells  when  a  person  is  under  the  influence 
of  evil  spirit  or  ghost.  Such  an  influence  can  also  be  confirmed  by  the 
Chanspa  who  usually  lives  in  Chhamskang,  a  small  structure  away  form 
Gompa.  While  performing  Lhuchas  a  devil  figure  is  prepared.  As  soon 
as  the  worship  is  over  the  devil  figure  is  thrown  in  river  or  any  other  water 
source.  This,  it  is  believed,  removes  the  influence  of  evil  spirit,  especially 
of  Lhu.  For  certain  diseases  the  cure  is  sought  through  worship.  For 
instance  Chhasum,  a  worship,  is  organised  to  get  rid  off  the  eye  trouble. 
Only  one  Lama  does  it  for  about  an  hour.  Another  popular  religious 
belief  is  in  regard  to  the  paintings  suggested  by  Onpo  or  Lama,  and  pre¬ 
pared  by  Spon.  The  Thankas  (paintings),  including  Lhaskal  and  Skis- 
tak,  believed  to  serve  definite  purpose.  The  formation  of  Lhaskal 
is  believed  to  ensure  better  future.  Its  formation  also  sounds  of  difficul¬ 
ties  in  future  life.  Simultaneously  are  suggested  the  ways  to  safely  overcome 
them.  Likewise  people  believe  that  Skistak  helps  in  getting  a  better 
rebirth.  In  order  that  a  person  may  be  reborn  in  some  better  category 
the  formation  of  Skistak  is  suggested.  The  belief  in  religious  paintings 
is  so  widely  popular  that  all  the  families  are  found  in  possession  of  them. 
The  Ladakhis  make  cash  payment  for  their  formation. 

The  worship,  known  as  Yarne,  has  two  important  functions.  Yarne 
is  organised  every  summer  in  Gompa  hall.  This  worship  is  of  long 
duration  and  continues  for  month  and  a  half.  It  starts  every  morning 
and  closes  in  the  evening.  During  this  performance  the  Lamas,  as  an 
imposition,  do  not  move  beyond  Gompa  campus.  Primarily  the  worship 
is  educative  to  the  Lamas  in  terms  of  the  details  of  this  important  event. 
In  addition,  there  is  another  background,  of  this  worship.  The  Ladakhis 
express  that  lot  of  ants  and  insects  come  out  on  the  surface  in  summer 
season.  If  Lamas  move  out  they  may  kill  them  under  their  feet.  That 
would  bring  curse  to  them.  To  avoid  such  killing  of  ants  and  insects  the 



worship  is  organised  in  summer.  The  Lamas,  under  the  religious  pro¬ 
hibition  do  rot  move  out  of  monastery  during  the  period  of  worship. 
The  villagers  do  not  participate  in  this  worship.  On  this  occasion  they 
are  simply  engaged  for  other  jobs  iike  supplying  water,  fuel  and  other 

The  Lamas  as  well  as  the  Ladakhis  are  very  scared  of  sin  and  they 
see  that  it  is  not  ordinarily  committed.  Even  if  it  is  unintentionally  done 
they  have  designed  the  remedy  to  seek  relief.  One  of  such  means  is 
Shojong,  a  worship.  It  is  performed  on  the  last  day  of  a  Tibetan  month. 
The  worship  is  exclusively  meant  for  Lamas  and  they  participate  in  it 
collectively.  Performance  of  Shojong  grants  pardon  to  Lamas  for  their 
wrongs,  doings  and  sins.  Pardon  is  sought  for  the  wrong  deeds.  In 
addition  it  helps  achieve  blessings  for  future.  The  worship  keeps  on 
reminding  Lama.s  for  not  committing  wrong  deeds.  Another  occ  asion  of 
celebration  and  worship  is  Losar,  the  new  year  day  of  the  Ladakhis. 
Losar  is  observed  according  to  the  Tibetan  calendar  year.  It  is  reported 
that  the  celebration  of  Losar,  in  the  beginning  of  February,  is  done  to  rem¬ 
ember  Buddha’s  victory  over  the  six  heresies,  the  victory  of  true  religion 
over  infidelity.  It  also  signifies  the  passing  phase  of  cold  weather.  The 
worship,  for  two  to  three  days,  is  done  to  celebrate  the  new  year.  The 
Ladakhis,  in  general,  feel  that  Losar  is  the  best  occasion  to  pay  respect 
and  regard  to  the  senior  Lamas,  including  the  Kusbok.  And  once  it  is 
done  in  the  beginning  of  the  year  they  may  keep  it  up  all  the  year  round.. 
The  junior  Lamus  offer  Khataks  to  senior  Lamas,  thereby  recognising 
their  superiority.  The  villagers,  too,  offer  Khatak  to  Lamas.  And  all 
the  villagers  and  Lamas  offer  Khataks  to  the  Kusholc.  These  rituals  are 
indication  of  mutual  love  and  affection.  The  celebration  marks  good 
luck  and  prosperity  for  the  coming  year.  In  addition  to  worship  the 
villagers  and  Lamas  wear  new  clothes.  Music,  dances  and  horse  race 
are  organised.  Chhagjot  offers  food  to  the  villagers,  symbolising  them 
as  their  own  people  whose  welfare  is  to  be  looked  after  by  them. 

Like  Samgo-Namgo  the  Ladakhis  believe  in  amulets  which  have  the 
quality  of  curing  disease  and  extending  protection.  Prepared  by  Lamas 
the  amulets  and  other  sacred  wears  help  keep  away  the  evil  influence  of 
supernatural  powers.  Chantho  is  a  red-coloured  amulet,  narrow  at  one 
end  and  wide  at  the  other.  Towards  the  wide  portion  are  attached 
a  few  small-sized  stones  or  beads.  Chantho  is  specially  prepared  for 
the  infants  and  children  who  are  made  to  tie  it  in  their  neck.  Chantho 
contains  sacred  hymns  written  on  small  pieces  of  paper.  These  are 
tightly  bundled  and  kept  inside  the  metal  frame  of  the  amulet.  The  force 
of  this  sacred  literature  helps  give  protection  to  the  child.  In  return  of 
Chantho  the  Lama  is  paid  one  to  two  rupees.  Sunha  is  another  object 
which  is  believed  to  provide  protection  against  the  evil  spirits  and  the 
sickness  caused  by  them.  Sunha  resembles  the  sacred  thread  of  the 
Hindus  and  is  worn  in  the  neck.  For  the  preparation  of  Sunha  a  Lama 
is  again  paid  in  cash.  The  amount  may  vary  from  one  to  two  rupees. 


1 53 

Sunha  cures  madness  and  sleeplessness.  Chantho  and  Sunha  are  worn 
by  the  women  to  beget  children.  A  woman  also  wears  it  prior  to  her 
delivery  so  that  she  can  get  a  male  child.  While  preparing  Shonga  (Sung 
Dud),  a  Lama  murmurs  some  hymns  and  exhales  with  force.  There 
is  believed  to  be  power  in  Lama’s  breath.  Shonga  is  another  amulet 
prepared  by  the  Lamas  and  used  for  the  same  purpose  as  Chantho  and 
Sunha.  It  is  also  worn  in  the  neck.  Kushok  too  prepare  the  amulets. 
The  supernatural  background  of  sickness  and  cure  continues  to  go  strong. 
The  following  table  gives  an  account  of  the  causes  of  disease. 

Table  showing  the  causes  of  sickness  as  given  by  the  Ladakhis 



Disease  causing 

No.  of 














Out  of  300  respondents,  45  informed  that  they  do  not  know  the  cause 
of  sickness.  Among  those  who  responded  the  majority  stated  that  the 
diseases  are  largely  caused  by  the  supernatural  forces  followed,  in  order, 
by  the  climatic  and  the  physical  reasons.  All  the  supernaturals  are  not 
responsible  for  sickness;  there  are  some  known  for  it.  The  Ladakhis 
cannot  easily  afford  to  ignore  them. 

The  belief  in  traditional  ways  is,  at  times,  so  strong  that  it  overpowers 
the  content  of  modernity.  During  the  course  of  my  first  visit  to  Spituk 
I  suddenly  heard  the  sound  of  gong  music  coming  from  one  of  the  houses. 
I  requested  the  Cultural  Officer,  who  accompanied  me  to  the  village,  to 
take  me  to  the  site  of  music.  We  got  into  the  house  which  belonged  to 
Ishae  Shang,  a  Ladakhi,  who  had  arranged  a  worship.  One  of  Ishae’s 
sons,  an  M.B.B.S.  doctor,  was  present  in  the  house.  This  son  worked 
as  Medical  Officer  in  Jammu  and  Kashmir  Government  and  was,  in  those 
days,  on  leave.  The  doctor  entertained  me  with  tea  and  biscuits.  After 
talking  for  some  time  I  requested  the  doctor  to  take  me  to  Chotkang, 
the  family  worship  room.  I  set  quitely  in  the  room  for  some  time  and 
expressed  my  regards  for  gods  and  goddesses  therein.  Later  on  I  was 
told  that  the  worship  was  arranged  for  Lhu  who,  after  being  satisfied, 
would  help  cure  the  sick  person  in  the  house.  The  doctor  himself  was 
a  party  to  the  worship.  He  did  it  under  the  dominance  of  parents,  though 
professionally  he  had  different  views  about  the  sickness. 

The  Ladakhis  further  believe  that  the  worhip  of  gods  and  goddesses 
on  the  auspicious  days  is  bound,  to  give  religious  merit.  This  is  in  addition 
to  other  practices  meant  for  the  same  purpose.  The  more  the  religious 



flit  LADAKHI 

merit,  the  better  would  be  the  after-death  phase.  There  are  four  auspici¬ 
ous  days  in  a  month.  These  include  Chhaspar  Gyat  or  Chhapogad  (8th 
day),  Chishu  or  Shiju  (10th  day),  Chhaspa  Chonga  or  Seba  Chonga 
(15th  day)  and  Namgang  (30th  or  last  day  of  the  month).  Except  on 
10th  da.y,  the  worshippers  keep  fast  for  the  whole  day  and  eat  food  only 
in.  the  late  night  around  twelve  o’clock.  The  Yangnus  (worshippers  on 
fast)  do  not  even  talk  to  others.  This  is  done  as  part  of  the  religious 

Within  the  belief-complex  of  JLadakhis  the  committing  of  offence  in 
life  time  (especially  taking  away  of  a  life)  reflects  adversely  on  after-death 
phase.  In  order  to  have  smooth  sailing  after  death  the  Ladakhis  go  in 
for  the  formation  of  Chbja  or  Chhacha.  Pieces  of  unburnt  bones  are 
picked  up  from  the  remains  of  a  cremated  body.  These  are  powdered 
and  mixed  with  white  clay  paste.  Out  of  this  people  make  small  figures, 
resmbling  Chorten,  and  keep  them  in  big  Chorten.  The  formation  of 
such  figures  helps  avoid  difficult  course. 

Chan  is  one  of  the  most  notorious  ghosts  which  the  Ladakhis  recog¬ 
nise.  To  escape  from  its  bad  effects  the  Bhotos  raise  Chandos.  The 
latter  help  keep  away  Chan.  Chandos  is  a  collection  of  few  stones 
coloured  with  red  ochre.  Formation  of  Cha.ndos  helps  satisfy  Chan. 
Lot  of  Chandos  can  be  marked  around  the  houses  and  along  the  paths. 
The  formation  of  Chandos  is  an  individual  affair.  In  regard  to  Chandos 
description  the  Bhotos  state  that  it  never  gets  an  abode  and  keeps  on 
moving,  riding  on  a  horse  back.  In  looks  it  resembles  a  skeleton  dressed 
in  red  clothes.  It  induces  fear  followed  by  sickness. 

A  barren  couple  is  considered  unfortunate.  The  Ladakhis  have 
devised  various  ways  to  beget  a  child.  One  of  the  beliefs  is  that  one  may 
be  blessed  with  a  child  after  the  formation  of  Shog-pur.  An  impotent 
husband  who  shivers  while  visiting  his  wife  cannot  perform  the  sex  act 
properly.  He  is  given  a  Shog-pur  which  is  prepared  by  Labha  and  Lama. 
The  latter  visit  his  house  for  the  purpose.  Shog-pur  formation  is  done 
after  the  performance  of  relevant  worship.  A  commonly  accepted  beleif 
is  that  Shog-pur  provides. energy  to  the  impotent  man  to  do  the  sex  act. 
Consequently  it  leads  to  conception  and  birth.  Shog-pur  is  made  out  of 
bamboo  strips  or  dry  stems.  It  resembles  a  human  figure.  The  figure 
is  made  to  wear  clothes  too.  Shog-pur  is  accommodated  in  Chotkang, 
alongwith  other  gods  and  goddesses,  and  is  worshipped  daily. 

,  For  Ladakhis  the  religion  and  rainfall  are  intimately  connected. 
According  to  their  belief  the  worship,  termed  Chharbeb  or  Chharbip, 
can  help  in  getting  rain.  The  worship  further  helps  in  getting  more  snow¬ 
fall  and  more  water  in  the  springs.  When  snow  melts  the  Ladakhis  get 
water  for  irrigation  of  fields.  The  observance  of  worship  is  essential  in 
the  event  of  water  scarcity.  The  organisation  of  Chharbip  is  believed 
to  appease  Lhu,  Magzur  and  Sadak.  The  latter  supernaturals  are  'said 
to  be  responsible  for  water  supply.  When  happy  they  manage  to  provide 
more.  On  the  other  hand  the  drought  conditions  would  prevail  if  they 



are  annoyed.  As  part  of  worship  the  Lamas  throw  Chandan  Karmar, 
Gyacho  Bua  and  Wambo  Lagpa  (substance  that  appease  the  superna- 
turals)  into  the  springs. 

Lho-stur  or  Skansol  is  another  worship  whose  performance  protects 
Ladakhis  from  disease.  Every  family  must  arrange  it  atleast  once  a  year 
to  satisfy  the  supernaturals  including  C  hamstring,  Lamo,  Zigzet,  Chhos- 
gyal,  Nezar,  Shugdon,  Namshe,  Gonbo,  Zalzi,  Khitapa,  Gonkar,  Thin- 
Iese  Gyapo  etc.  Skansol  is  performed  by  the  Lamas.  In  case  the  worship 
is  not  performed  the  family  members  are  likely  to  suffer  from  diseases. 
On  the  occasion  of  Skansol  the  villagers  participate  in  food  and  drinks. 
The  family  god  remains  satisfied  after  the  organisation  of  Skansol, 

The  Ladakhis  firmly  believe  that  the  blessings  of  Lamas  and  Kushok 
are  essential  for  a  smooth  living.  And  to  get  blessings  the  villagers 
approach  the  religious  men  and  offer  Khataks  to  them.  The  religious 
men  reciprocate  it  by  a  Sundut,  a  red  ribbon.  The  devotee  ties  this 
Sundut  in  the  neck.  One  may  come  across  so  many  people  wearing 
Sundut.  Chhonshung  is  another  form  of  religious  ribbon  given  by  a 
superior  religious  man,  Kushok  or  Dalai  Lama.  As  per  the  belief  of 
Ladakhis  even  the  dagger  and  bullet  would  not  affect  a  person  wearing 
Chhonshung.  A  strong  imposition  on  the  man,  wearing  Chhonshung, 
is  that  he  should  not  Indulge  in  sexual  intercourse.  If  the  taboo,  is  viola¬ 
ted  the '  Chhonshung  would  cease  to  have  its  force. 

Boamskor  is  yet  another  worship  which  has  religious  as  well  as 
economic  dimensions.  It  is  believed  that  the  performance  of  Boamskor 
helps  protect  the  crops  when  they  are  about  to  ripe,.  The  worship  satis¬ 
fies  gods  like  Chhok  Turn  Gyamo  and  Shamur  Ma  Gyamo  who  are  help¬ 
ful  in  the  matter.  I  participated  in  one  of  the  Boamskor  performances 
and  found  its  account  interesting.  One  fine  morning  the  male  members 
of  village  community  reported  at  Gompa.  A  senior  and  a  few  junior 
Lamas  took  out  some  sacred  literature,  the  pot  his,  from  Gompa.  These 
Pothis  (religious  books)  were  distributed  to  the  people.  Each  man  was 
given  two  to  three  Pothis  which  were  carried  on  back  duly  wrapped  in 
cloth.  Two  of  the  villagers  carried  the  Photographs  and  portraits  of 
Kushok  Bakula  and  Chongappa.  They  fixed  them  on  the  front  upper 
portion  of  their  body.  Later  on  they  all  came  out  of  Gompa.  The 
Lamas  worshipped  Gyamos  by  the  chanting  of  hymns.  All  of  them  then 
loudly  shouted  in  praise  of  gods  and  goddesses.  The  procession  was 
headed  by  Dum  Dumwala,  followed  by  the  Lamas  and  the  villagers 
respectively.  This  procession  was  taken  round  the  fields,  people  shouting 
in  praise  of  gods  and  goddesses.  Those  who  carried  the  portraits  and 
photographs  were  interfered,  after  every  little  distance,  by  those  villagers 
who  did  not  join  the  procession.  This  was  to  greet  them  and  to  make 
offerings.  The  offerings,  so  collected,  were  finally  given  to  the  Lamas. 
The  processionists  made  temporary  halts  in  every  section  of  the  village. 
This  was  to  take  rest.  The  Pothis  were  kept  at  one  place  and  the  parti¬ 
cipants  ate  food  and  drank  Gur  Gur,  arranged  by  the  sectional  heads, 



It  is  done  after  the  performance  of  a  small  scale  worship.  After  this  the 
participants  again  marched  in  the  similar  fashion  covering  all  the 
sections  of  the  village.  Finally  the  procession  ended  in  Gompa  where 
all  the  Pothis  were  deposited.  The  villagers  returned  to  their  homes, 
being  assured  that  their  crops  would  not  be  damaged. 

As  in  case  of  Mane  and  Chorten,  the  changing  conditions  have  again 
adversely  reacted  to  some  superstitious  beliefs  of  the  people.  Many 
informants  have  stated  that  since  that  start  of  blasting  of  hills,  for  the 
purpose  of  road  or  building  construction,  the  Ladakh  is  have  experienced 
acute  scarcity  of  rains.  It  happened  because  the  gods  connected  to 
rain  got  annoyed  of  blasting  as  it  damaged  their  place  of  abode.  In  rather 
disgusted  mood  many  of  the  informants  stated  that  even  the  Lamas  are 
helpless  in  the  matter.  The  technological  advancement  coming  hard  on 
their  belief  system  is  not  at  all  appreciated  by  the  people. 

Gods  and  goddesses 

The  Ladakhis  recognise  and  worship  various  gods  and  goddesses. 
The  images  of  these  are  chiefly  housed  in  Gompa.  Some  of  these  also 
find  place  in  Chotkang  where  daily  worship  is  the  requisite.  Among  the 
important  gods  and  goddesses  are  Chenresi,  Chamba,  Riksamganbo, 
Makzor  Gaimo,  Chham-Shing,  Yul-La,  Genbo,  Chanlahete.  Chenresi 
is  recognised  as  the  god  of  the  dead.  Its  image  is  represented  through 
a  male  figure  in  sitting  posture.  The  image  has  four  arms;  two  of  these  are 
folded  and  the  rest  slightly  elevated.  Normally  the  image  is  found  deco¬ 
rated  with  metal  and  stone  ornaments.  Chamba  is  another  image  of  god, 
more  commonly  found  in  Gompa.  The  figure  is  of  a  male  but  its  coun¬ 
tenance  is  like  a  female.  Like  Chenresi,  Chamba  too  has. a  sitting  posture 
and  four  arms  but  not  folded.  Out  of  the  two  upper  arms  one  holds  a 
rosary  and  the  other  flowers.  One  lower  arm,  out  of  the  two,  is  open  to 
the  sky  and  the  left  one  holds  a  water  jar.  Image  of  Chamba  is  decorated 
with  various  kinds  of  ornaments.  The  extent  of  decoration  is  said  to 
depend  upon  the  conomic  position  of  Gompa.  Riksamgonbo  is  regar¬ 
ded  as  the  god  of  hills.  He  stays  on  the  top  of  the  hill  only.  The  god  is 
to  be  worshipped  and  kept  appeased.  Riksamgonbo’s  abode  is  symbo¬ 
lised  through  a  small  structure  made  on  the  top  of  the  hill.  The  Ladakhis 
recognise  this  place  and  express  regard  for  the  same.  This  god  helps  meet 
a  specific  end  in  the  interest  of  village  community.  He  serves  as  buffer 
in  between  the  people  and  the  spirits  living  away  from  the  village.  When 
kept  satisfied  Riksamgonbo  provides  protection  against  outside  spirits. 
He  does  not  allow  them  to  cross  over  the  hills.  The  worship  of  Riksam¬ 
gonbo  is  a  collective  affairs.  Makzor  Gaimo  is  a  goddess,  more  popular 
in  Spituk.  She  is  believed  to  live  in  a  stone  and  is  different  from  hill  god. 
The  goddess,  if  ignored,  makes  a  person  blind  and  also  causes  cough  and 
cold.  Any  other  harm  can  also  be  caused.  In  Spituk  the  stone  in  which 
Gaimo  is  believed  to  live  is  lying  in  a  water  channel.  It  is  a  big  stone  and 

Religious  attributes 


is  always  shown  respect  by  the  people.  The  stone  is  never  hit  or  broken. 
The  villagers  do  not  keep  their  foot  on  it.  Clothes  are  not  washed  on 
this  stone.  These  are  all  signs  of  respect  for  the  goddess.  When  the  prohi¬ 
bitions  are  ignored  the  goddess,  it  is  believed,  takes  a  furious  and  violent 
course  and  inflicts  harm  on  the  people.  Gaimo  is  also  believed  to  stay 
on  a  tree  nearby.  The  tree  commands  respect  as  it  has  been  assigned  a 
sacred  status.  In  addition  the  villagers  have  also  constructed  a  Chorten 
near  the  site.  New  coatings  of  clay  and  colours  given  to  it  on  the 
occasion  of  Losar.  Gaimo  protects  from  sickness  and  adds  to  production 
and  prosperity.  The  goddess  is  worshipped  by  arranging  Shakspa 
Thuichol  worship.  The  worship  lasts  for  a  day  and  the  Lamas  do  it 
whenever  required.  More  powerful  and  dangerous  god  is  Chham- 
Shing.  Respondents  from  Spituk  have  informed  that  this  god  stays  on 
the  same  hill  on  which  the  Spituk  Gompa  stands.  The  exact  location  is 
the  backyard  of  the  main  worship  hall.  The  place  is  well  protected  and 
marked.  A  Lama  offers  daily  worship,  before  sun-set,  to  this  god.  The 
worship  is  known  as  Sturbul.  There  are  some  taboos  in  respect  of  Chham- 
Shing.  No  Ladakhis  should  throw  light  on  Chham-Shing  after  the 
sun-set.  No  one  is  allowed  to  throw  wader  on  this  god.  Anyone  dis¬ 
regarding  the  prohibitions  is  bound  to  be  harmed.  Calamity  may  a.lso 
strike  in  the  form  of  epidemic  or  failure  of  crops. 

Sangyas,  Shaka  Thubba  or  Gautam  Buddha  is  the  chief  god  of  the 
Ladakhis.  He,  it  is  expressed,  gave  rise  to  Buddhism  and  so  is  considered 
its  origina.tor.  Sangyas  is  all  pure  and  truthful.  Guru  Rimpoche, 
Padmo  Sambhava  or  Lobon  Rimpoche  is  another  god  believed  to  be  hot- 
tempered.  The  belief  is  that  Sangyas  gave  him  power  to  crush  ghosts 
and  evil  spirits  which  were  troubling  him.  He  can  prevail  upon  Lhu, 
Shinde,  Magzur  etc.  It  is  stated  that  Rimpoche  wrote  Pothis  suggesting 
means  to  remove  the  effects  of  ghosts  and  evil  spirits.  Dolma  is  a  god¬ 
dess  believed  to  be  helpful  in  various  matters.  She  is  chiefly  responsible 
for  increasing  fertility  of  women.  Dolma  helps  cause  conception.  Some 
informants  even  stated  that  Dolma  promotes  the  cause  of  wealth,  remov¬ 
ing  obstacles  from  a  person’s  life.  Chukshik  Jal  is  another  benevolent 
god.  Zambala  adds  to  richness  and  Rangeshal  avoids  calamity. 

Yul-La  is  the  village  god  and  is  held  responsible  for  the  entire  village 
community  and  its  economic  survival.  Lamas  worship  Yul-La  every 
month.  There  is  also  an  annual  worship.  A  stony  structure  represents 
the  image  of  this  god  and  the  same  may  be  seen  at  more  than  one  places 
in  the  village.  The  structure  is  usually  found  decorated  with  animal  horns 
and  dry  bushes.  Dry  grass,  wheat  and  barley  plants  form  other  articles 
of  offering  to  Yul-La.  Some  even  stressed  that  gold,  silver  and  turquoises 
are  kept  beneath  the  image  of  Yul-La.  An  annual  worship  of  Yul-La 
is  organised  by  the  villagers.  Every  morning,  for  about  five  to  seven 
days,  the  Dum  Dumwalas  go  to  the  place  of  Yul-La  and  play  music  for 
sometime.  After  this  is  over  a  man  called  Lardak,  replaces  the  old  offer¬ 
ings  of  Yul-La  by  the  new  ones.  Leafs  of  Suppa  tree  are  particularly 



placed  on  the  spot.  The  Goba,  Members  and  other  villagers  visit  the 
place.  They  all  share  Chang  after  the  worship  is  over.  If  the  offerings 
of  Yul-La  are  not  annually  replaced  he  may  get  annoyed  and  harm  the 
crops,  animals  and  human  beings.  One  of  the  functions  of  Yul-La  is  to 
forecast  about  the  crops.  A  container,  half  filled  with  grain,  is  kept,  inside 
the  Yul-La  structure  and  left  there  for  a  few  days.  If  it  is  found  full  when 
checked  next,  there  would  be  better  crops.  This  is  how  the  Ladakhi’s 
determine  it.  Shamor  Ma  Gyamo  is  Yul-La  of.  Sabu.  This  is  one  god 
whose  worship  is  done  through  sacrifice.  Offering  of  sacrifice  is  other¬ 
wise  not  approved  by  the  Buddhist  religion.  The  practice  sound  as 
survival  of  old  Bon  religion  of  Ladakh.  The  Ladakhis  sacrifice  a  goat 
near  the  place  of  Shamor  Ma  Gyamo.  Goba  appoints  a  man  for  killing 
the  goat.  An  important  pre-requisite  for  the  man  who  kills  the  goat 
is  that  he  should  be  unmarried.  Part  of  the  blood  is  sprinkled  on  Yul-La. 
The  rest  of  it  is  consumed  by  the  participants.  In  some  cases  the  man 
shivers  prior  to  the  killing  of  goat.  The  practice  is  locally  termed  as  La 
Ba.  The  informants  added  that  Zunu  Tunglak,  a  popular  god  in  Zans- 
kar,  is  also  worshipped  through  goat  sacrifice.  This  sacrifice  is  arranged 
on  the  8th  day  of  the  third  Tibetan  month.  The  Ladakhi s  assess  these 
two  gods  as  blood  eaters  and  so  are  to  be  offered  sacrifice.  Sacrifice  of 
goat  is  again  done  for  the  satisfaction  of  Rangeshal  god  and  Paldan  Lamo 

Gonbo  is  a  hill  god  and  its  appearance  resembles  a  male  figure.  Some 
families  keep  the.  image  of  Gonbo  in  their  Chhotkang.  This  is  to  please 
him.  The  clay  figures,  as  images  of  Gonbo,  are  prepared  in  Leh.  Gonto’s 
figure  is  to  be  annually  worshipped.  Sacred  fla.mes  are  lighted  in  front  of 
Gonbo  figure.  The  latter  may  be  coloured  and  offered  money.  Kushok 
is  stated  to  add  colour,  once  a  year,  to  Gonbo  figure.  If  Gonbo  is  not 
cared  for  he  may  create  conditions  of  calamity.  He  may  reduce  snowfall 
on  the  hills  causing  thereby  scarcity  of  water  for  irrigation.  This  may 
lead  to  crop  failure.  Some  of  the  sick  persons  are  directed  to  worship 
Gonbo  to  seek  relief.  Chanlah  is  a  god  believed  to  be  moving  around. 
People  remain  alert  of  his  presence.  Ignoring  him  would  invite  trouble 
to  the  person  concerned.  is  more  active  at  night  and  causes 
trouble  during  that  time  only.  One  is  more  prone  to  the  attack  of  Chanlah 
while  alone.  Thefeelingof fear  spontaneouslydevelops  making  a  person  sick. 
For  safety  from  Chanlah  the  villagers  form  Chandos.  Tarchok  formation 
is  an  added  recommendation.  It  has  been  reported  that  the  Ladakhis  of 
Sakti  village  offer  a  goat  sacrifice  to  Chanla,h.  The  goat  is  arranged  by 
rotation.  It  is  an  annual  affair.  It  is  reported  that  the  Lamas,  of  late, 
persuaded  Sakti  people  to  give  up  the  practice  of  goat  sacrifice.  The 
The  advice  is  yet  to  take  a  practical  shape. 

Lato  is  a  Lha  or  god.  Its  image  is  made  in  every  house  and  preserved 
in  Chotkang  alongwith  some  other  god  and  goddesses.  A  Lato  is  made 
from  Agrarbatti,  leaf  of  Changma  tree,  cloth  pieces  and  some  precious 
metal.  In  addition  to  Chotkang  Lato  there  is  common  Lato  of  the  village. 



It  is  located  in  the  hills.  Lato  worhip  provides  safety  to  men,  women  and 
animals  in  the  house.  They  do  not  fall  sick.  Lato  formation  is  believed 
to  satisfy  some  of  the  other  gods.  He  also  protects  one  from  evil  spirit 
especially  while  in  journey.  The  formation  of  a  Lato  is  preferably  done 
by  the  Kushok  who  is  invited  to  perform  the  worship.  He  is  offered 
money,  Gur  Gur,  food  etc.  A  Lato  formation  is  to  be  renewed  every 
year.  And  if  it  is  not  done  one  may  invite  harm.  Lato  is  one  of  the  oldest 
gods  whose  mention  has  been  made  by  Featherstone  (1926)  too.  He 
mentions  that  among  Ladakhis  another  custom  is  of  building  cairns, 
called  Hlato  (Lato)  or  God’s  pla.ce,  on  the  summit  of  mountain  passes. 
These  are  crowned  with  the  horns  of  wild  sheep,  ibex  and  other  animals 
and  in  the  centre  is  placed  small  bough  or  boughs  of  a  tree  on  which  is 
fastened  a  prayer  flag,  bearing  inscribed  thereon  a  holy  text. 

It  may  be  mentioned  that  an  integral  part  of  the  worship  of  gods  and 
goddesses  is  the  offering  of  Khatak,  a  holy  scarf.  One  finds  many  of 
such  scarfs  hanging  on  the  images  of  gods  and  goddesses,  both  in  Chot- 
kang  as  well  as  monastery.  When  the  image  of  a  supernatural  is  not 
within  reach  the  Ladakhis  have  been  seen  throwing  scarfs  from  a  distance. 
To  greet  Kushok  the  most  important  object  used  is  Khatak.  The  villagers 
offer  him  Khataks  and  he  obliges  them  through  his  blessings.  The  Kha- 
taks  are  then  collectively  placed  at  one  place  considered  sacred. 

Ghost  and  spirits 

The  Ladakhis  believe  in  the  existence  of  ghosts  and  spirits.  Some 
of  them  are  considered,  more  mischievious  and  scaring.  The  death  of  a 
human  being  and  animal  is  attributed  to  sickness  sent  by  the  ghost  or  the 
evil  spirit.  Most  notorious  of  the  malevelent  supernaturals  is  known 
as  Shinte.  It  is  said  to  cause  maximum  harm  to  the  human  a.nd  animal 
population.  Shinde  or  Shinte  spirit  originates  from  the  death  of  a  person 
who  breathes  last  with  lot  of  desires  in  mind.  Such  a  person,  while  on 
death-bed,  expresses  that  he  has  left  many  things  undone  and  unresolved. 
The  spirit  of  such  a  person  becomes  Shinte,  Others  explain  that  when  a 
man  indulges  in  bad  deeds  in  his  life  time,  his  soul  does  not  find  any  abode 
and  roams  here  and  there.  In  due  course  it  assumes  the  form  of  Shinte. 
It  is  believed  that  Lhas  provide  protection  to  life  while  Dhuts  are  bent 
upon  killing  it.  Shinde  comes  in  Dhut  category.  As  protection  against 
Shinde  the  Lamas  are  requested  to  organise  Dukar-Zok  Gyur  worship. 

Lhu  is  another  spirit  most  scaring  to  the  Ladakhis.  It  is  more  for 
evil  than  good.  Little  anger  to  Lhu  means  big  harm  to  the  person  and 
his  family.  A  water  source,  where  Lhu  is  believed  to  reside,  is  never 
damaged  nor  its  water  made  dirty.  Some  of  the  informants  .  have 
stated  that  the  Ladakhis  of  Phae  village  do  not  domesticate  dogs  and  cats 
(domestication  of  dogs  is  otherwise  very  popular  among  the  Ladakhis). 
The  fear  is  that  they  may  sometimes  go  to  the  water  source,  where  Lhu 
stays,  and  spoil  the  water.  In  that  case  the  Lhu  would  become  furious 


trie  Ladakh! 

and  cause  harm  to  the  villagers.  Lhu  assumes  the  indifferent  and  the  most 
harmful  attitude  when  not  bothered  for.  The  cleaner  the  water  in  the 
water  source,  the  happier  would  be  the  Lhu.  The  figure  of  Lhu  is  stated  ' 
to  resemble  human  being  with  snake  on  head.  According  to  others  it 
resembles  fish  and  lizard.  At  times  it  is  explained  to  have  seven  heads. 
Lhu  is  considered  somewhat  better  than  Shinde  because  it  may,  at  times, 
be  helpful.  With  its  worship  it  may  help  increase  the  milk  yield  of  an 
animal,  crop  production  and  water.  The  Lamas  worship  it  on  the  spot 
to  cause  rain.  When  ignored  the  consequences  may  be  reverse.  Joint 
pains,  muscle  pull  and  boils  are  specially  caused  by  Lhu.  Lhuchas  and 
Namkor  Namthang  worship  are  done  to  appease  Lhu. 

Lhande  is  a  ghost.  It  has  no  specific  abode  and  is  found  on  the  hills, 
under  stones  and  along  the  river  banks.  Lhande  is  stated  to  resemble  a 
tall  black  Lama.  When  a  person  gets  confronted  with  Lhande,  he  falls 
sick.  It  is  also  believed  that  Lhande  can  take  away  the  consciousness  of 
a  man  while  in  sleep.  Being  half-asleep,  the  man  follows  Lhande.  It 
is  further  stated  that  Lhande  keeps  the  man  under  his  control  for  four  to 
five  days.  Lhande  does  attack  animals.  In  order  to  satisfy  Lhande, 
Chhewang  or  Chhadup  worship  is  performed  by  the  Lamas.  That  a 
man  is  under  the  influence  of  Lhande  can  be  identified  only  by  a  qualified 

The  faith  in  evil  spirits  continues  to  be  well  intact.  What  Feather- 
stone  (1926)  observed  holds  true.  He  mentions  that  people  have  strong 
faith  in  evil  spirits  and  devils.  Herein  lies  mostly  the  source  of  the  power 
of  the  Lamas,  who  alone  are  able  to  exercise  these  demons,  in  terror  of 
which  the  native  spends  his  life.  He  wears  charms,  amulets,  and  relics 
of  holy  Lamas  as  protection  against  gods  and  devils,  but  as  they  turn  out 
to  be  of  little  use,  the  priests  are  always  being  called  upon  to  make  good 
their  deficiencies.  The  people  are  ready  to  believe  anything  the  Lamas 
tell  them  and  are  always  on  the  look  out  for  omens,  lucky  days  and  unlucky 
days.  These  latter  are  discouraged  by  consulting  professed  astrologers, 
who  give  special  divinations  for  the  most  important  events  in  life,  but  in 
everyday  life,  the  ordinary  native  generally  judges  for  himself  the  omens 
and  auguries.  The  natives  are  very  superstitious.  The  Lamas  are  the 
real  supporters  of  the  devil  worship  which  flourishes  everywhere  and 
provides  one  of  their  chief  means  of  livelihood. 

Religious  persons 

To  avoid  misfortune,  to  get  good  luck  and  to  keep  gods  and  goddes¬ 
ses  happy,  the  Ladakhis  have  certain  means.  Some  of  the  religious  men 
are  taken  help  of  for  the  purpose.  Onpo  is  one  of  them.  He  is  approa¬ 
ched  by  a  Ladakhi  after  a  birth  or  death  in  family.  He  is  also  contacted 
in  case  of  sickness  or  other  difficulty.  The  Ladakhis,  being  deeply  super¬ 
stitious  believe  in  the  influence  of  stars  over  the  life  of  a  person  and  his 
affairs.  When  needed  the  Ladakhis  consult  Onpo,  an  astrologer  as  well 

ftELlGlOUS  AfTRtfiUTfeS 


as  astronomer.  An  Onpo  is  capable  of  forecasting  future  events.  He 
does  so  in  consultation  of  his  holy  literature.  For  any  undersirable  happen¬ 
ing  an  Onpo  would  tell  of  the  evil  star  and  its  influence.  At  times  he 
would  suggest  for  worship  and  installation  of  Buddhist  flags  having 
hymns  written  on  them.  A  normal  course  of  action  suggested  by  Onpo 
involves  formation  of  religious  paintings  known  as  Thanka,  Skistak  and 
Lhaskal.  The  latter  is  prepared  in  case  of  child  birth  alone.  When  made 
after  death,  a  painting  is  known  as  Skistak.  Such  paintings  mostly 
depict  Buddha,  or  any  of  his  disciples,  alongwith  other  worship  equip¬ 
ment.  What  shape  a  painting  is  to  be  given  is  decided  by  Onpo.  This 
is  done  keeping  in  view  relevant  religious  calculations.  Thanka  and  Lhas¬ 
kal  are  tied  on  cloth  alone,  and  their  size  varies.  Most  of  these,  however, 
are  about  two  feet  long  and  one  and  a  half  feet  broad..  After  the  direc¬ 
tive  obtained  from  Onpo  the  needy  approaches  Spon  who,  in  fact,  makes 
the  painting.  Spon  is  a  painter  who  may  or  may  not  be  a  religious  person. 

Thankas  carry  religious  sanctity  and  are  kept  very  carefully.  These 
are  not  to  be  kept  anywhere  else  but  Chotkang.  In  this  sacred  part  of 
the  house  the  Thankas  are  made  to  hang  against  the  walls.  The  pain¬ 
tings  are  either  left  open  or  are  covered  with  plain  cloth. 

Lama  and  Chomo 

Lama  is  a  religious  man  and  Chomo  a  religious  woman.  They 
both  superior  persons  and  enjoy  a  higher  social  and  religious  status.  Such 
religious  persons,  in  various  categories,  serve  the  villagers.  They  dedicate 
their  life  to  religion  and  for  the  service  of  the  community.  The  Lama 
devote  to  learning,  preaching  and  worshipping.  During  my  stay  in 
Ladakhi  villages  I  found  that  one  or  the  other  kind  of  worship  formed 
almost  a  daily  feature  of  one  or  the  other  family.  The  number  of  Lamas 
engaged  varied  according  to  the  nature  of  worship.  A  common  belief  is 
that  the  Bhotos  opt  to  become  Lamas  and  Chomos  because  they  do  not 
consider  worldly  life  as  good.  They  want  to  achieve  religious  knowledge 
and  preach  the  same  to  others  who  are  illiterate.  It  continues  to  be  true 
that  on  an  average  every  third  family  spares  one  person  to  join  the  frater¬ 
nity  of  Lamas  or  Chomos.  The  table  below  gives  a  more  clear  picture  in 
this  regard. 

Table  showing  the  number  of  Lamas  and  Chomos  (Out  of  300  families) 



Category  of 
religious  persons 

Total  number 

Percentage  of  the 
total  population 




2.49  ; 








»  4 


162  THE  LADAKiff 

The  table  reveals  that  300  families  spared  87  persons  to  become 
Lamas  and  the  Chomos.  That  means,  out  of  a  total  population  of  1806, 
eighty  seven  (4.82  %)  joined  the  religious  priesthood.  These  religious  men 
and  women  lead  a  life  of  celibacy.  After  attaining  a  particular  age,  the 
Lamas  shift  to  the  monastery  while  the  Chomos  continue  to  live  in  their 
respective  houses.  Lama  and  Chomo  can  distinctly  be  identified  in  the 
Ladakhi  society  because  of  the  particular  style  they  live  in.  A  Lama 
wears  a  saffron- coloured  robe,  resembling  a  dressing  gown.  This  is 
girdled  with  a  cloth  band.  On  the  upper  part  of  body,  and  under  the  gown 
is  worn  a  tight  jacket  of  yellow  or  red  colour,  depending  on  the  sect  to 
which  one  belongs.  One  belonging  to  Red-sect  would  wear  jacket  and 
cap  of  the  red  colour.  A  religious  man  of  Yellow  sect  wears  yellow 
coloured  jacket  and  cap.  A  Chomo  also  wears  similar  dress  but 
the  design  of  her  cap  differs.  It  is  conical  in  shape,  not  very  pointed 
at  the  upper  tip.  The  Lama  and  the  Chomo  shave  off  their  heads  and 
never  allow  their  hair  to  grow  long.  The  other  Ladakhis  wear  their  hair 
long.  Even  the  man  grow  it  long  to  protect  the  hea,d  from  cold.  With 
long  hair  and  cap,  the  Ladakhis  face  the  extreme  winter.  The  Lamas 
live  in  Gompa  campus  and  spend  their  time  in  religious  learning  and  its 
practical  display.  Till  the  age  of  about  eight  the  boy,  to  be  made  Lama, 
stays  in  the  parental  home.  Later  on  he  is  admitted  in  the  monastery 
and  given  a  new  name.  Then  he  severes  some  of  his  connections  with 
his  family  of  orientation  and  becomes  more  integral  part  of  Gompa. 
Except  a  few  the  Chomos  now  stay  in  their  respective  houses  and  lead  the 
.life  of  celibacy.  The  religious  knowledge  of  a  Lama  is  definitely  far  more 
than  a  Chomo.  At  the  same  time  the  Chomos  can  be  found  sh?«ring  the 
household  and  other  activities.  The  La.mas,  however,  are  never  asked 
to  do,  that.  They  are  exclusively  meant  for  religious  performance.  The 
Chomos  do  household  work,  look  after  fields  and  also  tend  ca.ttle.  They 
attend  to  the  call  of  Gompa  people  and  are  employed  for  various  works 
in  Gompa.  They  may  look  after  Gompa  crops  and  are  also  used  for 
cleaning  purpose.  When  the  villagers  work  for  Gompa  agriculture  fields 
the  Chomos  are  asked  to  manage  food  for  them.  They  do  it  from 
Gompa  funds.  In  spite  of  all  this  a  . Chomo’ s  pisition  is  definitely  con¬ 
sidered  superior  to  other  women,  though  the  superiority  is  not  all  the 
time  exhibited. 

It  has  been  reported  that  rule  of  primogeniture  was  responsible  for 
sparing  male  children  to  join  priest-hood.  Likewise  the  system  of  poly¬ 
andry  spared  girls  for  spinsterhood..  Such  formations  also  got  impetus 
from  the  feeling  of  leading  a  religious  life.  It  is  expressed  that  because 
of  a  high  proportion  of  females,  coupled  with  polyandry,  there  have  been 
some  surplus  females  who  could  not  marry.  If  they  could  not  be  diverted 
to  religious  life,  the  chances  of  immoral  traffic  would  have  enchenced. 
In  this  background  the  Chomo  formation  was  further  encouraged.  Simul¬ 
taneously  it  was  almost  obligatory  on  family  to  spare  a  girl  for  Chomo- 
hood.  People  have  further  reported  that  the  children  who  frequently  fall 



sick  are  dedicated  to  Gompa.  When  the  new-borns  of  a  couple  die,  one 
after  another,  they  decide  to  dedicate  one.  child  to  Gompa.  The  belief 
is  that  so  doing  will  enhance  survival  chance.  Also,  to  maintain  family 
tradition  a  person  is  spared  to  join  priestly  class.  It  may  be  reported 
that  the  number  of  Lamas  as  well  as  the  Chomos  is  towards  decline 
because  of  the  changing  pattern  of  inheritance  and  the  declining  poly¬ 
andry.  With  number  the  change  has  also  occurred  in  their  professional 
orientation.  The  Chomos  are  now  less  religion-oriented  because  they  stay 
in  their  family  house.  The  Lamas  who  used  to  be  previously  sent  to 
Lhasa  for  training  have  now  stopped  going.  The  check  on  this  religious 
training  has  been  imposed  by  the  latter  political  developments.  Under 
the  new  circumstances  Lhasa  is  no  longer  the  spiritual  fountain  head  for 
the  Ladakhi  Lamas. 

Among  the  Lamas  exists  a  social  hierarchy.  The  highest  placed  are 
the  Kushoks,  most  of  whom  are  believed,  to  be  reincarnate.  The  person 
who  can  be  accorded  the  highest  honour  and  respect  in  Ladakhi  society 
is  the  Kushok.  The  importance  of  his  visit  to  any  village  is  more  than 
anybody  else.  He  is  welcomed  by  ail  men,  women  and  children  Offer- 
rings  of  various  kind  are  made  to  him.  A  Kushok  runs  the  Gompa 
admini station  and  his  word  is  a  law.  Like  a  monarch  he  can  order  dis¬ 
missal  as  well  as  appointment  of  any  person  in  monastery.  A  Kushok 
is  never  challenged  by  any  person.  Three  categories  of  Lamas  are  repor¬ 
ted.  One  is  Chung-Zung,  Chung,  Bande  or  Ge-Yen.  He  is  a  novice  to 
Lamaism.  A  boy  dedicated  to  religion  is  given  a  new  name.  His  head 
is  shaved  to  make  him  Chung-Zung.  He  can  initially  stay  in  his  family, 
or  may  join  the  Gompa.  For  two  to  three  years,  or  even  more,  his 
behaviour  is  observed  to  assess  his  caliber  for  Lamaship.  He  has  to 
observe  the  main  principles,  namely  to  abstain  from  Chang,  offence,  theft, 
sex  indulgence  etc.  If  one  maintains  the  restrictions  for  five  to  seven 
years  he  is  made  a  Gheesul,  the  next  higher  stage  in  Lamahood.  Kushok 
and  Khonbo  are  empowered  to  declare  a  man  Gheesul.  A  Lama  becomes 
Gheesul  after  attaining  the  age  of  about  fifteen  years.  At  this  stage  he  has 
to  strictly  observe  thirty  six  principles  meant  for  Lama.  He  also  starts 
taking  lessons  in  Buddhist  philosophy.  In  the  next  higher  stage  he 
becomes  Gallong.  This  is  around  the  age  of  twentyfive.  A  Gallong  has 
still  more  impositions  and  observes  253  conditions.  He  is  believed  to 
be  a  learned  Lama.  The  position  of  Gallong  is  attained  only  affter  under¬ 
going  sufficient  training  in  religious  philosophy.  Next  higher  stage  is  of 
Sang-Nak.  The  man  devotes  largely  to  meditation.  Like  the  Lamas 
the  hierarchical  order  for  Chomos  is  also  defined.  A  beginner  Chomo 
is  known  as  Geyen  Ma.  On  her  promotion  she  becomes  Gheesul  Ma, 
and  finally  Gallong  Ma.  The  latter  is  explained  to  be  the  highest  category 
in  the  ranking  of  Chomos.  I  met  quite  a  few  Chomos  and  found  them, 
irrespective  of  their  rank,  lacking  in  religious  knowledge.  For  most  of 
my  querries  they  stated  their  inability  to  explain.  How  far  they  are 
connected  with  religion  can  be  shown  by  the  history  of  Lobzang 



Chhoral,  a  Chomo  from  Spituk.  She  became  Chomo  at  the  age  of  eight. 
Chhoral  has  neither  stayed  in  any  Gompa  nor  knows  reading  and  writing. 
She  has  not  been  formally  taught  the  philosophy  of  Buddhism  or  Lamaism. 
Of  course  she  wears  the  dress  meant  for  a  Chomo.  Chhoral  is,  now, 
the  head  of  female  labour  force,  engaged  as  civilian  labourers.  She  can 
understand  and  speak  bit  of  Hindi.  Whenever  free  she  devotes  some 
time  to  agriculture  works.  In  addition  she  responds  to  Gompa’s  call 
whenever  her  services  are  asked  for. 

Apart  from  stratification  in  terms  of  religious  achievements  there  are 
two  other  broad  division  of  Lamas.  One  of  these  consists  of  those  who 
chiefly  devote  to  meditation  and  worship.  They  are  not  involved  in  any 
activity  related  to  worldly  affairs.  Another  category  is  of  those  Lamas 
who  ca.ter  to  the  temporal  needs  of  the  community.  The  men,  in  latter 
category,  also  manage  to  look  after  Gompa  land,  cattle,  trade  etc.  They 
collect  funds  for  Gompa  and  maintain  the  accounts.  The  patterns  of  two 
divisions  are  as  under  : 

Spiritual  section 

1 .  Kushok 

—  An  incarnation 

2.  Lobon 

—  An  abbot 

3.  Chos-Timpa 

—  Who  controls  religious  meetings 

4.  Chhomspon 

—  Who  directs  the  religious  dances 

Temporal  section 

1 .  Chhag-jot 

—  Treasurer 

2.  Nyerchhen 

—  Steward 

3.  Hyerpa 

—  Storekeeper 

4.  Phi-Nyer 

—  Farm  Steward 

Among  Lamas  the  level  of  attainment  differs.  The  fact  has  been 
established  during  the  course  of  fieldwork.  More  number  of  Lamas 
(and  almost  all  Chomos)  are  not  rationally  conversant  even  with  the 
practices  they  are  engaged  in.  When  they  perform  a  worship,  and  if 
asked  about  its  functional  interpretation,  they  are  unable  to  explain. 
They  take  things  for  granted  and  do  not  bother  about  the  intricacies  of 
religious  performance.  Many  a  times  I  observed  Lamas  dozing  during 
the  course  of  worship.  When  they  suddenly  wake  up  they  again  start 
murmuring  something.  But  there  are  other  Lamas  who  are  undoubtedly 
intelligent.  And  whatever  they  do  they  thoroughly  understand.  They 
have  a  wider  understanding  of  things  and  explain  well  the  rituals,  cere¬ 
monies  and  worship  performed  by  them.  Amchi  or  Lharje,  the  medicine¬ 
man  of  the  Ladakhis,  is  not  necessarily  a  religious  man.  He  need  not 
be  in  Lama  fraternity.  But  he  certainly  depends  upon  the  sacred  Pothis 
while  treating  the  sick.  To  attain  Amchiship,  one  has  to  do  a  vast  reading 
of  literature  under  the  guidance  and  training  of  a  trained  Amchi,  If 



need  be  he  can  seek  help  of  Kushok  and  other  senior  Lamas  for  clarifica¬ 
tion.  For  cure  an  Amchi  is  in  link  with  the  religious  men,  the  Lamas, 
Kushok,  Labha,  Chanspa  etc.  From  the  sacred  books,  dealing  with 
medicines,  the  details  are  gathered  for  preparing  medicines  from  roots 
and  herbs.  When  the  worship  is  used  as  a  means  of  curing,  the  Amchi 
himself  sits  in  the  Chotkang  of  the  patient’s  family  and  performs  it.  Such 
a  worship  of  gods  and  goddesses  is  believed  to  cure  the  patient.  In  such 
an  instance  Amchi  acts  as  a  religious  man.  Because  of  this  background, 
and  for  his  expertise  as  a  curer,  an  Amchi  is  given  higher  status  in  society. 
He  is  recognised  as  a  professional  leader.  His  appeal  to  the  gods  and 
goddesses  or  his  prevailing  upon  certain  evil  spirits  and  ghosts  is  a  suffi¬ 
cient  support  to  an  Amchi  being  a  religious  man.  Worship,  in  fact,  is 
suggested  or  done  by  the  Amchi  to  ward  off  the  influence  of  evil  spirits. 
Warding  oft'  such  influence  helps  cure  the  disease.  Apart  from  herbal 
medicines  and  worship,  the  other  ways  of  treatment,  practised  by  an 
Amchi,  include  the  induction  of  red-hot  iron  into  the  body  of  patient,  and 
a  bath  in  mineral  water  of  the  springs.  In  Latter  case  the  Amchi  accom¬ 
panies  the  patient  to  the  spring  and  directs  him  for  the  porpose. 

Phunchok  Namgyal  is  the  Amchi  of  Spituk.  He  commands  great 
respect.  Aged  about  42,  Phunchok  stays  permanently  in  the  village.  He 
has  read  upto  6th  standard  and  is  employed  as  Postman  in  Post  and 
Telegraph  Department.  Phunchok’s  family  is  polyandrous  with  six  chil¬ 
dren.  His  eldest  son,  read  upto  5th  standard,  has  already  started  learning 
Amchi’s  profession.  Phunchok  diagnoses  the  sickness  by  feeling  the 
pluse,  and  treats  by  inserting  a  red-hot  iron  rod  in  some  part  of  the  body. 
Some  medicines,  prepared  out  of  plants,  herbs  and  roots  are  also  given. 
His  charges  are  nominal,  not  exceeding  two  rupees,  food  and  Gur  Gur. 
He  also  performs  worship  in  the  patient’s  house.  Phunchok  has  not 
inherited  this  position  from  his  father.  But  his  son  is  learning  the  pro¬ 
fession  and  has  already  decided  to  take  it  up. 


Labha,  another  religious  man,  is  not  as  popular  as  a  Lama  or  Amchi 
is.  Even  the  number  of  Labhas  is  comparatively  less.  Generally  there 
is  one  Labha  for  two  to  three  villages.  In  bigger  villages  there  may  be 
one  each.  The  position  of  a  Labha  is  considered  important  and  far  above 
the  commoners  though  he  is  not  as  frequently  consulted  as  a  Lama  or  a 
Lharje.  A  Labha  is  believed  to  be  possessed  by  a  deity  and  with  her  help 
only  he  cures  the  ailments.  There  are  two  main  elements  of  Labha’s 
technology.  Firstly,  a  Labha  tries  to  cure  by  himself.  Secondly,  he 
suggests  to  organise  a  worship  or  contact  an  Amchi.  Labha  himself  does 
not  perform  any  worship.  The  Ladakhis  are  of  the  opinion  that  a  weak- 
herted  man  becomes  Labha  because  he  easily  gets  possessed  by  the  deity. 
When  one  gets  possessed  of  a  deity  he  tries  to  learn  relevant  techniques 
from  some  trained  Labha.  The  Labha  has  the  capability  of  removing 



poison  from  the  body  of  a  person.  He  can  take  out  iron,  needle  from 
animal  stomach.  Labha  does  not  cause  harm  to  anyone  and  is  always 
useful.  The  deity,  possessing  Labha,  cannot  be  used  for  causing  harm. 


A  Chanspa  is  mostly  a  Lama  who  lives  in  interior  hills  and  devotes  to 
meditation.  It  is  through  meditation  that  he  attains  a  high  spiritual 
knowledge  and  understanding.  The  spiritual  attainment  of  a  Chanspa 
is  so  strong  that  he  can  even  foretell  whether  a  sick  person  would  survive 
or  not.  Those  suffering  from  the  evil  influence  of  spirits  are  taken  to 
Chanspa.  Or,  somebody  contacts  Chanspa  on  behalf  of  the  sufferer. 
Generally  the  Chanspa,  after  making  his  calculations,  suggests  for  wor¬ 
ship.  More  popular  of  these  is  Lhuchas.  The  worship  is  performed  in 
Chotkang  belonging  to  person  concerned.  Organisation  of  Shilok 
worship  is  also  suggested.  The  latter  is  performed  by  Lobon  to  ward 
off  the  effects  of  ghosts  and  evil  spirits. 

The  course  of  meditation  for  becoming  Chanspa  is  a  tough  one. 
A  man  has  to  mediate  for  three  years,  three  months  and  seven  days.  The 
period  is  spent  in  small  isolated  hut.  The  man  also  devotes  to  reading. 
Only  a  strong-willed  Lama  opts  for  this  course  in  life.  In  addition  to  help 
society,  a  man  decides  to  become  Chanspa  for  self  purification.  Some 
admitted  that  a  Chanspa  is  helpful  in  begeting  children. 

Gompa — a  religious  organization 

A  Gompa  organisation  has  two  major  dimensions;  one  religious  and 
the  other  civic.  Those  who  perfom  the  latter  functions  are  also  the  Lamas. 
That  way  the  number  of  Lamas  is  large.  But  only  a  few  of  them  are  given 
formal  positions.  The  incumbents,  by  and  large,  against  such  positions 
keep  on  changing,  depending  more  on  the  Kushok’s  will.  But  the  achieved 
positions,  through  religious  attainment,  do  not  invlove  any  change  of 
incumbent.  The  spiritual  and  temporal  positions,  in  order  of  sequence 
described  by  the  informants  as  follows  : — 

1.  Kushok 

2.  Khonbo  or  Gonbo 

3.  Chhag  or  Chhang-jot  , 

4.  Lobon 

5.  Nirpa 

6.  Gey-kos 

7.  Umjey 

8.  Uchung  ... 

9.  Chhampon 

10.  Chhamjog 

11.  Chhabrel  , 

12.  Chama  ,  • 

13.  Komniar  .  .  ...  .  ..  . 



Kushok  is  always  a  reincarnation.  He  appoints  Lamas  from 
position  No.  2  to  No.  10.  The  rest  three  are  appointed  by  Khonbo. 

1.  Kushok  is  the  overall  head  and  incharge  of  Gompa.  A  Kushok, 
after  death,  gets  rebirths.  The  place  and  family  in  which  a  Kushok  is 
reborn  are  searched  by  Gompa  management  with  the  help  of  Dalai  Lama. 
A  Kushok  is  the  spiritual  as  well  as  the  administrative  head  of  monastery. 
He  enjoys  power  of  dismissal  and  appointment  of  any  Lama.  A  good 
deal  of  personal  interest  is  taken  by  Kushok  in  appointing  Khonbo, 
Chhang-jot  and  Lobon.  For  others  he  may  not  take  more  of  pains. 

2.  Khonbo  or  Head  Lama  is  next  in  position  to  Kushok.  In  the 
absence  of  Kushok  he  officiates  for  most  of  the  functions.  He  behaves 
as  additional  Kushok  and  is  permitted  to  preach  and  conduct  other  acti¬ 
vities  meant  for  Kushok.  On  behalf  of  Kushok  he  conducts  examinations 
for  Lamas  to  elevate  them  to  higher  positions.  Khonbo  can  go  to  per¬ 
form  worship  in  the  families.  Formation  of  Lamas  and  Chomos  is 
initiated  by  him.  He  is  vested  with  power  to  punish  a  Lama.  As  part  of 
punishment  he  can  ou.trightly  expell  a  Lama  or  give  him  some  hard  work. 
A  Khonbo  however  is  all  submissive  to  Kushok.  In  addition  a  Khonbo 
is  to  see  that  the  Gompa  laws  are  properly  respected  by  the  Lamas. 

3.  Chhang-jot  is  the  custodian  of  land  and  other  property  of  Gompa. 
He  is  its  manager  and  treasurer.  He  sees  that  the  agriculture  on  Gompa 
land  is  done  properly.  Daily  ration  for  Gompa  men  is  issued  by  him  as 
the  store  is  in  his  charge.  He  is  also  in  possession  of  Gompa  cash.  His 
term  of  office  is  for  four  years.  Before  handing  over  he  submits  the 
accounts  to  Kushok  who  appoints  someone  else  in  his  place.  A  simple, 
truthful,  hardworking  and  honest  man  is  selected  for  the  purpose. 

4.  Lobon,  unlike  Chhang-jot,  is  again  a  religious  man  of  Gompa. 
It  may  be  stated  that  smaller  Gompas,  under  the  control  of  major  one, 
are  headed  by  Lobons.  A  Kushok  does  not  directly  head  them.  For 
instance  Shankar,  Sabu.  and  Stock  Gompas  (subsidiary  of  Spituk  Gompa) 
are  headed  by  one  Lobon  each.  For  all  purposes  they  regard  Spituk  Kus¬ 
hok  as  their  fountain  head.  The  Kushok  of  main  Gompa  commands 
his  authority  over  the  rest  of  Gompas.  A  very  special  job  of  the  Lobon 
is  to  organise  worship.  He  is  its  organiser  and  fixes  time,  date,  place 
etc.  Other  arrangements,  in  this  regard,  are  also  made  by  him.  Another 
part  of  his  job  is  to  keep  an  eye  on  the  character  and  activities  of  the  Lamas. 

5.  Nirpa  is  an  assistant  to  Chhang-jot  and  helps  in  all  kinds  of  jobs 
assinged.  to  him.  But  in  subsidiary  Gompas  he  acts  as  independent 
Chhang-jot  and  performs  all  his  functions,  almost  parallel  to  those  of 
the  chief  monastery.  In  smaller  Gompas  a  Nirpa  is  the  manager  of 
land  and  property.  But  in  chief  monastery  he  is  simply  an  assistant 
manager;  the  manager  being  the  Chhang-jot  himself. 

6.  Gey-kos  is  an  assistant  to  the  chief  worhip  organiser,  the  Lobon. 
The  latter,  being  more  devoted  to  religious  life,  assigns  certain  jobs  to  the 
former.  During  the  course  of  worship  it  is  the  job  of  Gey-kos  to  see  that 
the  Gur  Gur  and  food  are  regularly  andtimely  served.  Those  who  serve  the 



meals  are  guided  by  him.  It  is  his  responsibility  to  make  sitting  arrange¬ 
ments  at  the  time  of  worship.  In  this  regard  he  waits  for  the  direction  of 
Lobon.  Under  his  supervision  it  is  seen  that  all  the  participants  in  worship 
serioously  read  the  sacred  literature  and  do  not  indulge  in  talking  and 
gossip.  Permission  to  leave  the  the  worship  is  to  be  taken  from  him. 
But  when  a  Lama  requires  long  leave  he  has  to  approach  Kushok  to  get  it 

7.  Umjey’ s  position  is  again  one  of  importance,  especially  in  the 
context  of  religion.  As  a  matter  of  fact  it  is  his  privilege  to  initiate 
the  performance  of  worship.  That  is  one  reason  why  this  position  is  given 
to  a  senior  and  intelligent  Lama.  While  inititating  a  worship  Umjey 
shouts  Ha-Ha-Ha,  and  this  is  followed  by  loud  gong-music.  In  addition 
to  this  job  an  Umjey  has  also  been  assigned  the  task  of  conducting  exa¬ 
mination  for  junior  Lamas.  He  is  deputed  to  attend  religious  meetings 
outside  Gompa. 

8.  Uchung  is  an  assistant  to  Umjey  and  officiates  for  all  duties  in 
his  absence.  When  an  Umjey  falls  sick  his  responsibilities  are  taken  even 
by  Uchung.  Even  when  Umjey  is  involved  in  other  jobs  he  may  ask 
Uchung  to  share  some  of  his  functions.  The  latter  are  not  related  to 
personal  life  but  as  defined  in  the  duty  chart. 

9.  Chhampon  has  a  big  role  to  play  in  Gompa.  He  is  the  director 
and  organizer  of  religious  dramas  and  dances,  specially  performed 
on  the  occasion  of  annual  fair  of  Gompa.  He  supervises  all  rehearsals 
which  the  Lamas  have  almost  atl  the  year  round.  All  dresses,  steps, 
movements  and  dramatic  sequence  are  prescribed  by  Chhampon.  This 
man  is  well  experienced  to  manage  for  the  elaborate  dramatic  perfor¬ 
mances.  He  guides  for  the  rhythmic  movements  of  hands  and  feet  of  the 
participant  Lamas.  These  dramatic  performances  help  transmit  the 
cultural  heritage  of  Ladakhis.  The  transmitted  traits  are  internalized 
by  the  observers  who  come  from  far  off  places  to  sec  the  dances  and 

10.  Chhamjog  is  an  assistant  to  Chhampon  and  helps  him  in  all 
activities.  As  the  work  load  of  Chhampon  is  more  he  needs  an  active 
assistant  to  help  him.  A  Chhamjog  is  also  well  conversant  with  the  jobs 
of  Chhampon.  It  may  be  mentioned  that  the  assistants,  in  all  cases  except 
that  of  Kushok,  are  normally  promoted  to  the  superior  positions  after 
the  retirement  of  their  seniors.  As  assistants  they  develop  expertise  in 
the  jobs  of  senior  men.  On  the  occasion  of  annual  fair  of  Gompa  the 
Chhampon  allots  part  of  his  job  to  Chhamjog. 

11.  Chha.brel’s  role  is  an  important  one,  especially  at  the  time  of 
annual  or  other  worship  wherein  the  villagers  participate.  On  the  occa¬ 
sion  of  bigger  worship,  Chhabrel  directs  the  villagers  in  terms  of  their 
way,  order  and  place.  He  gives  the  same  directions  in  the  temple  room 
too.  On  the  occasion  of  annual  worship  a  Chhabrel  directs  the  younger 
Lamas  for  making  arrangement  for  Gur  Gur. 

12.  Chama  is  the  kitchen  supervisor  and  attends  to  relevant  duties 



daily  as  well  as  on  special  occasions.  He  looks  after  cleanliness,  eatables, 
utensils,  fuel  etc.  Management  of  kitchen  is  under  his  charge  and  he  is 
authorised  to  allot  the  duties  in  any  way  he  feels  like.  A  Chama  perso¬ 
nally  supervises  food  and  Gur  Gur  preparation.  Any  problem  regarding 
kitchen  is  brought  to  his  notice. 

13.  Komniar  is  a  Lama  responsible  for  cleanliness  of  Gompa. 
When  Gompa  and  its  surroundings  give  a  dirty  look,  the  Kushok  and 
Lamas  point  to  Komniar.  To  keep  the  rooms  and  temple  clean  he  takes 
help  of  junior  Lanras,  Chomos  and  the  villagers.  The  Lamas  have  stand¬ 
ing  instruction  to  keep  their  rooms  clean.  The  major  part  of  cleanliness 
involves  dusting  of  worship  equipment,  statues  and  other  figures  of  gods 
and  goddesses,  paintings,  tables  and  library  books.  This  job  is  given 
to  a  man  of  confidence  because  some  of  these  things  are  rare  possessions 
and  precious.  In  case  they  are  lost  from  Gompa  their  replacement  would 
be  difficult. 

The  changing  conditions  around  have  hardly  made  any  impact  on 
Gompa  and  its  religious  organisation.  This  holds  true  for  structure  as 
well  as  role  parameters.  The  core  of  religious  formation  continues  to  be 
strong.  In  comparison  to  other  aspects  of  life  the  religion,  among  Lada- 
khis,  is  still  a  stronghold. 



Culture  Change — A  Review 

This  account  of  culture  change  is  in  continuation  of  what  has,  so 
far,  been  explained  as  continuity  and  change.  The  existing  socio-cultural 
milieu  of  the  Ladakhis,  as  analysed  in  earlier  chapters,  does- involve 
synchyronic  as  well  as  diachronic  explanations.  And  in  the  social  struc¬ 
ture  parameteis  one  can  easily  spot  out  instance  of  status  quo  and  dyna¬ 
mics/  Since  some  of  the  cultural  events  and  elements  cannot  easily  be 
discussed  in  isolation  of  change  and  continuity  dimensions,  they  had  to 
be  dealt  simultaneously.  Such  a  treatment  does  facilitate  the  reader 
to  compare  the  situation  of  fixity,  persistence  and  change. 

However,  to  further  highlight  the  prominent  aspect  of  change  and 
continuity,  and  to  inculcate  more  precision  this  chapter  has  been  separated. 
An  account  of  traditional  cultural  traits  and  those  lately  incorporated  as 
new  precisely  form  the  major  contents  of  this  exercise.  An  added  dimer  - 
sion  of  these  explanations  lies  in  the  revelations  of  the  nature  of  attitude 
to  the  old  as  well  as  the  new.  Analysis  of  this  kind  helped  to  hint  at 
future  trends  and  projections  of  change.  One  can  have  glimpse  of  it 
in  the  earlier  interpretations  too.  The  empiricism  made  in  the  paragra¬ 
phs  that  follow  provides  statistical  support  to  some  of  the  mechanical 
arguments.  The  degree  and  extent  of  culture  change  cover  some  of  the 
more  prominent  aspects  including  social  stratification,  family,, 
Phasphun,  rites-de-passage,  economic  organisation,  religious  structure 
and  socio-political  organisation. 

It  may  be  recalled  that  the  Ladakhis  stratification  and  inequality  are 
social,  ritual,  power  and  class  based.  The  nature  of  stratification  has 
already  been  discussed  in  the  relevant  chapter.  The  account  of  change 
is  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  change  in  varions  forms  of  Ladakhi  hierarchy 



Nature  of 

No.  of  informants 
who  feel  it  is  changed 









- — . 











The  table  reveals  of  a  significant  change  in  power  hierarchy.  Ali 
the  54.00  %  informants  who  admitted  change  have  stated  that  the  positions 
on  Kalhon  and  Goba  are  no  longer  as  powerful  as  they  used  to  be  in  the 
past.  The  authority  and  power  which  Kalhons  enjoyed  before  India 
attained  independence  are  no  longer  the  previlege.  But  in  case  of  Goba 
the  change  is  relatively  of  a  mild  order.  In  certain  respects  he  continues 
to  have  an  upper  hand  and  more  say.  Only  eight  percent  of  the  Ladakhi s 
feel  that  the  positions  of  Mon  and  Gara  have  been  elevated.  However, 
it  may  be  stated  that  in  day  to  day  life  and  interaction  the  positive  change 
in  the  position  of  Mon  and  Gara  could  not  be  marked.  Irrespective  of 
their  ethnic  group  affiliations  the  persons  associated  with  carpentry  are 
said  to  be  belonging  to  superior  class.  This  could  categorically  be  suppor¬ 
ted  by  three  informants.  The  rest  three,  out  of  six  who  spoke  for  change 
in  class  pattern,  are  of  the  opinion  that  the  Kalhon  class  is  now  less 
differentiated.  But  at  the  level  of  empirica.1  reality  the  bulk  of  population 
is  still  for  differentiation. 

-  As  already  stated  the  social  groupings  among  Ladakhis  have  bearing 
on  kinship  and  other  considerations.  The  grouping  is  not  very  elaborate. 
Nang-Chang  and  Gyut  are  purely  kinship-specific.  Phasphun,  however, 
is  not  necessarily  a  kinship  group.  Its  function  is  also  different  from  that 
of  Nang-Chang  and  Gyut.  Change  in  respect  of  social  grouping  can  be 
discussed  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  change  in  respect  of  social  groupings  of  the  Ladakhis 

SL ... .. 


Social  groups 

-  Those  who  _ 

admitted  change 






2  . 

Gyut  - . . 

_  90  _ 






It  may  be  made  clear  that  only  those,  out  of  300  informants,  who 
admitted  change  in  the  social  groups  find  mention  in  the  table.  That 
some  change  has  taken  place  in  the  Phasphun  group  is  supported  by 
108  respondents.  The  rest  agreed  that  the  group  continues  to  be  in  the 
traditional  form.  The  change  mainly  concerned  the  size  of  the  group. 
Out  of  108  informants,  69  (63.89%)  have  expressed  that  the  size  of  Phas¬ 
phun  has  increased  in  later  years.  That  means  the  families  per  Phasphun 
group  are  now  more.  On  the  other  hand,  39  (36.1 1  %)  Ladakhis  expressed 
for  contraction  of  Phasphun  structure.  No  change  was,  however,  repor¬ 
ted  in  terms  of  the  roles  and  activities  of  Phasphun  group. 

Likewise  the  change  explained  in  the  context  of  Gyut  is  again  struc¬ 
tural  and  not  organisational.  Only  90  informants  admitted  change  in 
case  of  this  kinship-based  group.  Out  of  90,  the  change  in  terms  of 



increased  size  and  number  of  Gyuts  was  supported  by  84  (93.33%).  The 
trend  might  have  got  impetus  from  the  sizeable  increase  in  Ladakhi 
population.  But  in  contrast,  6  informants  have  stated  it  the  other  way 
round.  According  to  them  the  Gyut  size  is  contracting. 

More  of  the  respondents  (117)  agreed  that  Nang-Chang  grouping  has 
undegone  change.  Out  of  these,  78  (66.66%)  stated  that  this  social 
group  has  fast  assumed  the  nuclear  form.  They  spoke  for  the  trend  that 
extended  family  pattern  is  heading  towards  nuclear  one.  And  this  reflec¬ 
ted  on  the  average  family  size  too.  But  at  the  same  time,  .39  (33.34%) 
respondents  have  stated  that  the  family  size  has  increased.  It  may  be 
reported  that  there  is  now,  predominance  of  nuclear  families,  followed  by 
extended  ones.  The  contradicting  opinions,  given  by  the  informants, 
may  have  their  root  in  specific  situations  created  by  changed,  changing 
and  the  continuing  conditions.  The  norms  of  behaviour  in  Nang-Chang 
continue  to  remain,  by  and  large,  unchanged.  The  functional  importance 
of  such  groups  in  the  social  structure  purview  maintains  originality. 

The  rites,  and  ceremonies  connected  to  birth,  marriage  and 
death  occupy  an  important  pla.ce  in  Ladakhi  social  structure.  Others 
apart  the  social,  economic  and  religious  implications  of  the  same  form 
an  integral  part  of  discussion  on  change.  The  response  in  terms  of  change 
is  as  under.  .  ;  . 

Table  explaining  change  in  relation  to  rites-de-passage 




Those  who 
reported  change 




•  81 



Marriage . . 

. — . .  204 






More,  out  of  300  respondents,  have  admitted  change  in  respect  of 
the  institution  of  marriage.  The  least,  that  is  16.00%,  explained  change 
in  the  context  of  death  rites  and  ceremonies.  Since  the  ceremonial  com¬ 
plex  in  the  event  of  death  involves  emotions  and  sentiments  the  reflection 
of  change  is  poor.  These  elements  compel  people  confine  to  the  frame 
of  traditionally.  On  the  other  hand  the  instance  of  change  is  more  in 
the  sphere  of  marriage  which  provides,  more  flexibility  as  per  the  Ladakhi 

Out  of  81  who  explained  change  in  connection  with  the  rites,  customs 
and  ceremonies  related  to  birth,  seven  admitted  of  change  in  ceremonial 
observances.  The  latter,  are  now  observed  with  less  rigidity.  Some  of 
the  areas  are  even  ignored.,  On  the  other  hand  the  rest,  that  is  74,  said  it 
the  other  way.  According  to  them  the  ceremonial  performances,  connec¬ 
ted  to  birth,  are  now  more  elaborately  observed  proving  more  expensive 
to  the  Ladakhis,  The  price-rise  is  another  factor  for  increase  in  expenses. 



Out  of  204  who  responded  for  change  in  marriage,  33  stated  that  the 
Phorsak  no  longer  exists.  Keeping  Phorsak  used  to  be  a  common  prac¬ 
tice  in  the  past.  Explaining  change  the  rest  of  the  informants  said  that 
the  marriage  expenditure  is  now  more  than  what  it  used  to  be  before. 
They  also  spoke  of  the  rising  frequency  of  love  marriages.  The  economic 
aspect  of  change  was  further  highlighted  in  case  of  death  rituals  and 
cremonies  whose  performance  now  involves  more  expenditure.  The 
Bulba,  in  the  event  of  a  death,  now  fetches  more  amount,  and  hence  more 
income  to  Lamas  and  the  monastery.  From  the  account  of  change,  given 
above,  one  can  infer  that  the  traditional  rites,  customs  and  ceremonies, 
connected  to  birth,  marriage  and  death,  continue  to  exist  (except  Phorsak). 
There  is  no  replacement  anywhere.  That  means  the  attitude  of  Ladakbis 
to  such  a  ceremonial  complex  is  maintained  as  before.  The  change  is  in 
the  economics  involved  and  in  the  degree  of  observance. 

In  spite  of  new  economic  opportunities  the  Ladakhis  continue  to 
chiefly  depend  upon  agriculture  and  animal  husbandry.  Other  subsidiary 
occupations  are  a.lso  followed.  Some  innovations  in  the  field  of  agricul¬ 
ture  and  animal  husbandry  do  form  part  of  change.  More  of  thes:  are 
additions  rather  than  replacement.  Use  of  improved  seeds,  implements, 
chemical  fertilizers,  insecticides  and  technical  know-how  is  a  later  deve¬ 
lopment.  The  detailed  stock  of  such  innovations  is  given  below. 

Table  giving  an  account  of  agricultural  innovations 



New  or  improved 
input  or  practice 

No.  of  respon¬ 
dents  who  adopted 



















Technical  know-how 



It  is  revealed  that  in  general  (except  in  case  of  fertilizer)  the  adoption 
of  agricultural  innovations  is  slow.  The  background  has~already  been 
explained  in  the  relevant  chapter  on  economic  structure.  It  may  be 
mentioned  that  no  improved  input  or  practice  has  been  adopted  in  Kuyul. 
Adoption  is  more  prominent  in  Spituk  and  Thiksay.  Though  nearer  to 
Leh,  the  agriculture  innovations  are  not  that  popular  in  Sabu.  Reason 
being  its  location  ?.t  higher  elevation  where  irrigation  facility  is  inadequate. 

Only  eighteen  percent  of  the  Ladakhis  use  improved  seeds,  mostly 
of  wheat  and  vegetables.  The  latter  are  grown  in  villages  around  Leh. 
The  most  popular  of  the  improved  ariculture  practices  is  the  chemical 
fertilizer  which  56.00  %  of  the  farmers  use.  The  next,  in  popularity,  are 
the  insecticides  and  the  technical  know-how.  The  least  (2.00%)  adopted 



are  the  improved  implements.  With  most  of  the  Ladakhis  the  old  prac¬ 
tices  are  still  popular,  partly  because  many  of  these  get  religious  support. 
The  ecological  conditions  and  lack  of  awareness  are  also  responsible  for 
continuity  of  the  old. 

The  condition  is  no  better  in  case  of  livestock  rearing.  How  slow 
the  Ladakhis  are  in  the  adoption  of  improved  practices  of  animal  hus¬ 
bandry  is  shown  in  the  table  below. 

Table  showing  the  adoption  of  improved  animal  husbandry 



Improved  practice 

No.  of  persons 



Animals  of  improved 








Artificial  insemination 



Only  6.00  %  of  the  Ladakhis  have  animals  of  improved  breed.  These 
include  Zo,  Zomo  and  the  poultry  birds.  It  has  been  reported  that  the 
Zo  and  Zomo  of  improved  breed  are  readily  accepted.  But  the  poultry 
birds,  becuase  of  their  high  mortality  in  winter  months,  are  not  welcomed. 
Of  course  when  they  are  available  free  of  cost,  people  accept  them.  Vac¬ 
cination  of  animals  could  be  done  only  in  1.00  percent  cases.  The  rest 
bank  upon  the  traditional  wa.ys  of  treatment  and  cure.  Most  of  the 
Ladakhis  have  not  even  heard  of  the  improved  animals  and  practices. 
What  is  primarily  required  is  the  development  of  awareness. 

As  already  explained  the  other  important  elements  of  Ladakhi  econo¬ 
mic  life  include  trade,  division  of  labour,  exploitation  and  income.  Sur¬ 
plus  and  property  aspects  are  not  elaborately  accounted  for.  Because  of 
their  being  on  the  ancient  trade  route,  many  Bhotos  from  Ladakh  were, 
directly  or  indirectly,  involved  in  trade  in  the  past.  Then  the  magnitude 
of  exploitation  was  higher.  What  change  has  taken  place  in  these  cons¬ 
tituents  of  Ladakhi  economic  system  is  revealed  by  the  following  table. 

Table  showing  the  change  in  various  elements  of  economic  system 

SI.  Elements  of  No.  of  respondents  Percentage 

No.  economic  system  who  admit  change 


T  rade 








Division  of  labour 









3  . 








It  is  evident  that  more  change  is  reported  in  the  context  of  income. 
Out  of  300  informants,  219  (73.00%)  have  admitted  that  the  change  in 
income  has  taken  place.  All  agreed  tha.t  their  income  is  now,  higher 
than  what  it  used  to  be  in  the  past.  Nearly  8.00  per  cent  of  the  Ladakhis 
reported  that  they  are  no  longer  involved  in  trade  with  Tibet.  As  the 
Tibet  borders  are  now  sealed  the  Ladakhis  indulge  in  internal  transpor¬ 
tation  of  goods.  For  this  purpose  they  make  use  of  zo,  mule,  horse,  goat 
and  sheep.  Since  the  rise  of  new  economic  opportunities,  some  read¬ 
justment  in  division  of  labour  has  been  made.  Nearly  sixty  informats 
expressed  that  their  women  now  work  more  in  the  fields  as  the  men  have 
joined  services.  Looking  to  the  nature  of  response  in  case  of  income  the 
replies  in  respect  of  surplus  and  property  do  not  seem  to  be  matching. 
Only  5.00  percent  admitted  that  their  surplus  is  now  more  than  ever  before. 
Three  own  shops  and  more  property  tha.n  before.  Nearly  23.00%  of 
the  Ladakhis  expressed  that  the  exploitation  is  now  less.  People  are  free 
from  forced  labour  and  Res  impositions. 

In  the  context  of  socio-political  life  and  social  control  the  change 
account  is  not  of  any  high  magnitude.  Some  additions,  as  new  patterns, 
have,  however  been  made.  This  emerged  in  the  process  of  politicization 
of  Ladakhis,  especially  after  their  developing  awareness  of  National 
Congress.  The  creation  of  a  category  of  Members,  and  the  associated 
norms,  is  said  to  be  the  direct  result  of  such  development.  The  following 
table  gives  an  account  of  the  changes  in  various  elements  of  socio-political 

Table  showing  the  change  in  various  elements  of  socio-political  control 


"No.  ’ 


No.  of  respondents 
who  admitted  change 





25.00  * 

'  2-. : : 






• — . 

- — - 





Change  in  pattern  and  norm  arenas  could  be  reported  by  25.00%  and 
16.00%  of  the  Ladakhis  respectively.  It  chiefly  pertains  to  the  origin  of 
Members  who  continue  to  be  the  integral  part  of  village  council.  Depen¬ 
ding  on  the  population  of  village  the  number  of  Members-  varies. 
Alongwith  the  creation  of  position  of  Member  came  into  effect  new 
functions  and  roles.  The  inclusion  of  Members  in  village  council  gave  it 
a  more  democratic  form.  Before  that  the  Goba  alone  prevailed  over 
others.  The  earlier  severity  of  punishment  declined  as  per  16.00%  of  the 
informants.  The  jolt  came  not  becuase  of  the  emergence  of  Members  but 
because  of  changing  conditions  and  new  system  of  administration  at 
official  level. 



With  the  rise  of  new  trends,  structural  and  positional,  the  attitude 
and  reaction  of  the  Ladakhis  to  old  agencies  of  socio-political  control 
took  a  new  turn.  When  a  question  was  posed  as  to  whom  do  they 
approach  for  seeking  justice  and  decision  in  the  event  of  a  conflict,  the 
response  showed  a  good  deal  of  variation.  It  ranged  from  traditional 
to  the  newly  emerged  agencies.  The  nature  of  such  response  is  as  follows. 

■  ,  ■  •  •* 
Table  showing  the  agencies  contracted  for  seeking  decisions 



Agency  contracted 

No.  of  respondents 
(out  of  300) 



Goba  alone 




Member  alone 




Goba  as  well  as  Member 




Any  other  (Police,  Kotwal, 

Tehsildar,  A  and  B 




It  may  be  stated  that  out  of  300  respondents  only  276  answered  the 
question.  The  rest  do  not  approach  anyone  as  they  have  never  been 
involved  in  any  conflict.  Majority,  that  is  73.00%,  of  the  Ladakhis 
approach  Goba  as  well  as  the  Member  for  seeking  justice.  Only  4.00  % 
report  to  Goba  alone,  and  6.00%  exclusively  bank  upon  Members. 
Some  9.00%  of  the  Ladakhis  depend  on  Police,  Kotwal,  Tehsildar  and 
Congress  ‘A’  and  ‘B\  Since  the  latter  agencies  are  not  available  at  village 
level,  not  many  people  approach  them.  Secondly  they  are  to  be  con¬ 
tacted  only  in  serious  cases  alone.  The  Goba  and  the  Members  take  help 
of  monastic  institutions  as  and  when  necessary.  The  dependence  on 
traditional  agencies  is  still  of  a  very  high  order. 

The  dominance  of  religion  on  Ladakhi  life  and  culture  stands  almost 
uninterrupted.  Ladakhis  dependence  on  religion  is  too  much.  While 
discussing  change  in  the  context  of  religious  elements  it  was  reported 
that  most  of  it  has  remained  intact.  Some  important  religious  attributes, 
explored  in  this  context,  included  spirits,  gods,  goddesses,  beliefs,  practices 
and  worship.  More  specifically  the  position  is  as  under. 

Table  showing  the  change  in  respect  of  religious  contents 



Religious  contents 

•  . 

No.  of  respondents 
who  feel  change 



Lhu  1 
















Religious  contents 

No.  of  respondents 
who  feel  change 











Other  beliefs 











The  table  supports  that  maximum  (6.00%)  change  has  occurred  in 
case  of  religious  practices.  People  have  not  done  away  with  the  prac¬ 
tices  but  the  incidence  of  their  observance  has  declined.  Nearly  60.00  % 
of  these  18  respondents  further  stated  that  they  do  not  construct  any 
Mane  and  Chhorten.  They  may,  however,  improve  upon  the  old  ones. 
In  the  religious  belief-system,  4.00%  Ladakhis  have  reported  for  change. 
However,  this  change  is  contradictory  in  the  sense  that  75.00%  of  the 
total  12  respondents  accord  less  recognition  to  the  beliefs,  whereas  the 
rest,  25.00  %,  respect  them  more.  The  change  in  case  of  worship,  spirits, 
gods  and  goddesses  is  of  the  order  of  2.00%  in  each  case.  Those  who 
admitted  change  in  the  sphere  of  worship  have  expressed  that  its  frequency 
and  form  of  observance  have  suffered  set-back.  Two  responses  given  in 
relation  to  gods,  goddesses  and  spirits  are  of  controversia.1  nature.  Half 
of  the  informants  have  strengthened  their  belief  in  them.  But  in  case  of 
other  half  the  same  has  dwindled.  The  increase  or  decrease  of  faith  has 
correspondingly  reflected  on  the  performance  of  connected  rituals  and 

More  of  the  Ladakhis  consider  disease  and  sickness  as  caused  by  the 
super  naturals.  The  treatment  too  is  sought  from  the  religious  persons 
like  Kushok  Lama,  Chanspa  etc.  The  explanation  for  cause  and  cure  of 
diseases  is  deeply  rooted  in  religion  and  its  various  manifestations.  But 
lately  the  Ladakhis  have  started  taking  advantage  of  new  opportunities 
concerning  health  and  sickness,  thereby  showing  change  in  their  attitude. 
An  elaborate  account  of  the  same  is  given  below. 

Table  showing  as  to  whom  the  Ladakhis  contact  for  treatment 



Agency  contacted 

No.  of  respondents 



Trained  doctor  alone 




Traditional  curers  alone 




Both  of  the  above 






Only  3.00%  of  the  Ladakhis  get  treatment  from  trained  doctor  alone. 
On  the  other  hand,  38.00%  continue  to  exclusively  depend  on  the  tradi¬ 
tional  curers  including  Lama,  Kushok,  Chanspa,  Amchi  etc.  There 
are  still  others  (59.00%)  who  get  treated  by  the  traditional  curers  as  well 
as  the  trained  doctors.  But  in  almost  all  these  cases  the  first  to  be  approa¬ 
ched  is  the  traditional  curer.  It  is  only  in  the  secondary  stage  that  the 
trained  doctor  is  contacted.  This  explains  of  the  continuity  of  their  faith 
on  traditional  agencies.  As  more  of  the  practices,  followed  by  the  latter, 
are  religion-based  and  as  religion  continues  to  have  hold  on  the  life  and 
culture  of  the  Ladakhis,  the  traditional  ways  of  curing  are  given  weightage. 

Under  the  existing  situation  the  Ladakhi  life  and  culture  present 
fixity,  persistence  and  change.  Traditional  continuity  overpowers  the 
change  parameters..  Instances  of  modern  trends  are  rarely  met  with. 
The  process  of  transition  is  extremely  slow,  more  so  in  the  social  and 
spiritual  complex.  Comparatively  transformed  are  a  few  areas  of  material 
way  of  life.  The  change-inhibiting  factors,  built  in  the  traditional 
social  structure,  are  going  strong.  The  outside  stimulants  have  yet  to 
shake  them  in  the  interest  of  change.  The  pro-change  infrastructure  is 
inadequate  looking  to  the  nature  and  background  of  Ladakhi  society. 
Poor  instance  of  culture  change  is  attributed  to  certain  built-in  provisions 
of  social-cultural  milieu  and  to  the  eco-system.  A  large  part  of  network 
of  cultural  elements  is  an  outcome  c-f  adjustment  with  the  eocological 
conditions.  And  it  is  this  network  which  claims  for  more  intactness. 
Spheres  beyond  signify  acculturative  influence,  whatever  be  its  order  and 
quality.  Ladakhi  society  is  still  bogged  down  in  hard  traditions— rational 
or  irrational.  To  bring  it  up  in  terms  of  planned  development  and  change 
one  has  to  take  stock  of  interconnected  manifestations  of  religion,  ecology 
and  society.  The  internal  order  as  well  as  the  external  agencies  need  to 
be  geared  up  to  show  new  directions.  Since  the  region  and  society  suffer 
from  remoteness  and  natural  hazards  the  provision  for  extra  resource, 
zeal  and  dedication  is  to  be  made  to  help  our  frontier  men  and  women. 



Bazaz,  P.N. 


Bamzai,  P.N.K. 


Bell,  Charles  Sir 


Bhandari,  Arvind 


Bhanja,  K.C.  ■ 


Biscoe,  Tyndale,  C.E. 


Blofeld,  John 


Chopra,  Pran 


Cunningham,  Alexander 


Dev,  Jatinder 


Drew,  Frederic 


Feather  stone,  B.K. 


Franck,  A,H, 


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Mystic  Tibet  and  the  Himalaya. 
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Kashmir  in  Sunlight  and  Shade. 
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The  Way  of  Power.  George  Allen 
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Ladak — Physical,  historical  and  sta¬ 
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Cooperator’s  Bulletin.  Azad  Art 
Press,  Jammu. 

The  Northern  Barrier  of  India. 
Light  and  Life  Publishers,  Jammu. 

An  Unexplored  Pass.  Hutchinson 
and  Co.  Ltd.,  London. 

t  T\  '  ' 

A  History  of  Western  Tibet. 
Pat  ridge. 



Ganhar,  J.N.  1956 

Ganhar,  P.N. 

Ganpat  1916 

Govt,  of  India  1965 

Govt,  of  Jammu  & 

Kashmir  1965 



Harrer,  Heinrich  1966 

Hedin,  Sven  1910 

Johri,  S.R.  1964 

Kamili,  M.H.  1961 

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Khosla,  Romesh  1970 

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New  Delhi. 

The  Road  to  Lamaland.  Hodder 
and  Stoughton  Ltd.,  Lndon. 

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Rules  for  the  Award  of  Prematric 
scholarship  to  the  Scheduled  and 
other  backward  classes.  Social  Wel¬ 
fare  Deptt.,  Srinagar. 

A  new  a.wakening  in  La.dak.  Direc¬ 
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Trans — Himalaya.  Macmillan  & 

Co.  Ltd.,  London. 

Our  Borderlands.  Himalaya  Pub¬ 
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Census  Atlas  of  Jammu  &  Kashmir 
Vol.  VI,  Part  IX.  Office  of  the 
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Mohamad,  Noor 

Moorcroft,  Willian 
Trebeck,  George 

Rubgias,  Tashi 

Rahul,  Ram 
Singh,  Maj.  Baljit 

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All  Ladakh  Student’s  Federation. 
Allied  Printers,  Srinagar. 

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Hindustan  and  the  Punjab,  in  Ladakh 
and  Kashmir  and  Bokhara.  John 
Murra.y,  London. 

1968  Hemis  Gompa  Fair.  Published  as 
a  feature  article  by  the  Govt,  of 
Jammu  and  Kashmir,  Directorate 
of  Information. 

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Publications,  Delhi. 

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1835  Travels  inKa.shmir  and  Ladakh. 

Vigne,  G.T. 

Aiiout  the  author 

[folding  Post-graduate 
an.d  Doctoral  degrees  in 
Anthropology  from  the 
University  of  Delhi,  Dr. 
R  S.  Mann  has  devoted, 
fo  over  two  decades,  to 
research  and  teaching  in 
S'  dal  Anthropology. 

I.  .  Mann  is  one  of  those 
ft  f  anthropologists  who 
h  i  2  conducted  and  su~ 
pt. 1  ised  researches  on  va- 
rio;  s  tribal  and  non-tribal 
c  ununities  inhabiting 
d  erent  and  far-flung 
r-  ions  of  Indian  sub- 
c  .tinent. 

Mann’s  range  of 
p>  Sessional  specialisa- 
ti  i  includes  theoretical 
a.  [tropology,  ethnogra- 
p;  r,  applied  anthropo- 
1<  y  and  social-cultural 
ch  nge.  And  these  inte¬ 
rs  s  are  reflected  through 
ei  :it  books  (edited  and 
in*  vidually  authored) 
an  !  eighty  papers  which 
D.  Mann  has  published 
at  his  credit.  Among 
hi  lately  published  books 
arc  :  (1)  Anthropological 
an \  Sociological  Theory, 
(2)  Social  Structure,  So¬ 
ck,,  Change  and  Future 
Tr  nds,  (3)  The  Bay  Is¬ 
lander,  (4)  Indian  Tribes 
in  Transition  and  (5) 
He  ckipikki—  The  Tra¬ 
pp'  r  and  Seller. 

T>  \  Mann  is  now  Depu- 
i”  director  in  Anthropo- 
cal  Survey  of  india.